Court must consider man accused of breaking Official Secrets Act was 'spoofing', judge told

Jonathan Lennon.

The barrister for a Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) employee accused of disclosing sensitive information has said his client was “spoofing” when he discussed details of an IRA murder case.

In his closing speech in the eight-day trial at Dublin District Court, defence barrister Seamus Clarke SC asked Judge John Hughes to consider his client, a post room worker in the DPP’s building on Infirmary Road in Dublin was spoofing, a waffler and he had tried to create a bigger impression of his role.

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. The offence can carry a six-month sentence.

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

Mr Lennon was not well disposed to the suspect as a result of an unpaid €1,500 loan, the non-jury district court trial was told.

Closing speeches were heard today.

Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, asked the court to note contents of texts messages on September 7. On that date, Mr Lennon sent messages about mentioning, revenge, Karma, “good news” and having something “better” to give a man during a meeting in a graveyard in which he bought Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association badges.

He was the service officer working where the case file was being prepared, counsel said.

He also asked the court to note Mr Lennon had admitted having a look in the file. Gardaí believed a suspect appeared to have been alerted and was up, dressed and waiting when gardaí came to his house on the morning of September 8, 2018.

Mr Lennon's messages the following day when the suspect was in court also contained details that had not been made public, counsel said.

Mr Clarke, for the defence, said the court must consider that the meeting in a graveyard was to buy badges and had been pre-arranged.

Discussions with another man via text messages the following day contained information that was no longer confidential as the suspect had appeared in court and it was in the media.

He said the court had to consider his client was waffling and spoofing and at one point he was corrected by the other person in the text message exchange.

In relation to prosecution evidence that Mr Lennon had used phrases from the file such as “lured” to describe the murder of Butterly, the defence barrister asked the judge to note that term was already used in earlier newspaper reports about the fatal shooting.

Judge Hughes will deliver his verdict on Tuesday.

The trial had heard that during a Garda interview he was asked about references he made to two men, who were later arrested. Mr Lennon told gardaí, “If I had given them such information why did they not go on the run?”.

He claimed other staff had read files of cases and he was following suit, but he had raised security concerns at work.

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.

He had been in contact with four people including two who had since been convicted of IRA membership

Mr Lennon, who did not testify in the trial, had told investigating gardaí he only spoke about matters already in the public domain.

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

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 began 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. Some men had been convicted of the murder and others of firearms offences or IRA membership.

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