Court hears civil servant accused of breaking Official Secrets Act admitted he had 'a peek' at Butterly murder file

Jonathan Lennon. Pic: Collins

A service officer in the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) office admitted to gardaí that he had a peek in a Peter Butterly murder suspect's file and took pictures of parts of other files, a trial has heard.

Jonathan Lennon, 35, from Clonee, Dublin 15, denies breaking the Official Secrets Act in relation to criminal proceedings resulting from the 2013 murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly.

Mr Lennon, a service officer, who worked in the mailroom in the offices of the DPP, is accused of disclosing information without authorisation about the arrest of a suspect, on September 7, 2017, and the following day.

A man was arrested on September 8, 2017, and gardaí believed he had been alerted beforehand.

In one of his Garda interview, Mr Lennon admitted that he read files about people or incidents known to him. When asked to deliver a file he would have a quick read and put it away, “nothing sinister”. “If there was a file, I would pick it up and have a flick for pictures….proper nosey stuff,” he said.

It was day-four of his non-jury trial before Judge John Hughes at Dublin District Court.

CCTV footage of him looking at a file was shown to him during the interview.

The civil servant also saw some of the Butterly file but claimed he only read the introduction. He told the interviewing detective, “I had a peek at a few pages”. He said he did not tell anyone outside work about what he read.

He remembered it mentioned Butterly had been lured by one suspect to his death but there was not enough evidence against that man.

The court heard he did not like the suspect because he had lent him €1,500 several years ago and had not been repaid. He heard “word on the street” that this man had been in the IRA over the past five years but Mr Lennon had got to know him before that through pub security work. They had also played football together.

The trial heard he had sent pictures of some file names to people he knew with the same name. He said this was a joke as they were not the same people. He did not know how many times he had done that.

He could not recall if he took a picture of part of the Butterly file, he told Detective Garda Sean Early.

He knew he should not be reading the files and that he had sometimes taken a picture of parts of them to read later. He would then delete the pictures but did not send them to anyone, he told detectives. He could not remember if he took photos of IRA cases.

The court heard he saw boxes marked with the names of two brothers he knew but he did not read their files. He regularly went for walks with one of them and admitted he bought Irish Republican Prisoner Welfare badges from the other after meeting in a graveyard in Mulhuddart.

He had received a text message from one of them about an IRA unit and he had googled 'Loughgall martyrs'. He had received a message saying “Thirty years today, RIP, best unit the IRA ever had”.

He said his friend who sent it was talking about a group that had been killed by the British and he always sent him “mad stuff”.

He denied telling the brothers about the imminent arrest of the suspect.

They said he had won a harp marked Long Kesh 1973 and a H-Blocks martyrs impact in a raffle. These were found during a search of his home.

He said he did not want to jeopardise his job and only spoke to his friend about “only stuff in the public domain” and in the news.

He was asked about internet searches for IRA arrests and told detectives that was because it had been in the news. He told gardaí he was interested in politics and history.

He said a picture of a man in a balaclava mask was probably a screenshot and it was not him.

Mr Lennon told gardaí he had never been asked to do anything for Republicans and said he had never received training in anti-Garda investigation or surveillance techniques.

The trial continues on Monday.

Messages sent via SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook messenger were decoded from Mr Lennon's phone, the trial has heard.

Peter Butterly.
Peter Butterly.

Dissident republican Butterly was shot dead in view of students waiting for their school bus on the afternoon of March 6, 2013, outside The Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co. Meath.

Mr Lennon commenced working in the DPP's office on January 3, 2017, and it was his role to collect, deliver and circulate files in the building.

The court has heard there was a file in the DPP’s directing office file relating to the murder of Peter Butterly from an internal feud in an organisation styling itself as the IRA.

It led to a number of trials and some men had been convicted of the murder and others of firearms offences or IRA membership.

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