Court hears man accused of breaking Official Secrets Act told gardaí: 'Everyone was reading files'

Jonathan Lennon. Pic: Collins

A post room worker accused of disclosing sensitive information when he worked in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) told gardaí he had raised security concerns about people reading files, a trial has heard.

Service officer, Jonathan Lennon, 35, from Clonee, Dublin 15, denies breaking the Official Secrets Act in connection with criminal proceedings resulting from the 2013 murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly during an internal feud in the IRA.

Mr Lennon is accused of disclosing information without authorisation about the arrest of a named suspect, on September 7, 2017, and the following day.

His trial before Judge John Hughes at Dublin District Court continues tomorrow. The State has closed its case today and the defendant does not intend to testify, Judge Hughes was told. Closing speeches are to be made by prosecution and defence counsel.

A suspect was arrested on September 8, 2017, and gardaí believed he had been alerted beforehand and that information about another man may have been disclosed, the trial heard.

In his eighth and final interview, Mr Lennon told gardaí, “If I had given them such information why did they not go on the run?”.

He disagreed that CCTV evidence showed him looking in the Butterly file and putting an envelope away as his supervisor approached. He said that was a coincidence and it could have been a personal letter that got sent to staff.

He denied ingratiating himself with a solicitor in the DPP’s office who had prepared the Butterly case file.

The court heard he did not like one of the suspects who owed him money. He was also asked about disclosing information.

“You said I was passing on information to the IRA, I definitely did not,” he replied to Detective Garda Martin Geraghty.

He was also questioned about messages mentioning “revenge” and “I’m just going to sit here and let karma f*** you up”. He said he did not know what that was about.

In another message, he said: “just got the best news” and was asked to explain that. "I don't know, I think at the time I was going for clerical officer but I can't remember," he replied.

He told the detective he did not know what it was about. He said he also raised his security concerns in work about people being able to read files.

“Everyone was reading files, I was just following suit, I raised the security concerns that we should not be able to look at files and have our phones,” he told the detective.

Two brothers, Damien and Conor Metcalfe, had been contacted by the defendant on the day before the arrest of a named suspect.

The trial heard the brothers had since been convicted of IRA membership.

Conor Metcalfe, aged 28, with an address at Monastery Park, Clondalkin, Dublin was found guilty in December of membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA, on 24 November 2015. He was jailed by the non-jury Special Criminal Court for four years, Judge Hughes was told.

Damien Metcalfe, aged 33, with an address at Blackditch Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin, was also convicted of the same charge. At the time he was living at Monastery Park, in Clondalkin. He is due to be sentenced on tomorrow.

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

The trial has heard Mr Lennon he had bought Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association badges for €20 from Damien Metcalfe after arranging to meet him in a cemetery in Muldhuddart, a day before the suspect was arrested.

The court heard he said he often went for walks with his friend Conor Metcalfe who had told him not to tell people where he worked.

Text messages from his phone used the word "lured" to describe how Mr Butterly was killed. Mr Lennon had told investigating gardai he only spoke about matters already in the public domain.

The trial has heard Mr Lennon admitted to gardaí he read files about people or incidents known to him. He would have a quick read and put it away, “nothing sinister,” he said.

“If there was a file, I would pick it up and have a flick for pictures….proper nosey stuff."

He had taken photos of files if they shared the name of other people known to him.

The civil servant also saw some of the Butterly file but claimed he only read the introduction. He told one interviewing detective, “I had a peek at a few pages”.

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.

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.

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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