A surveillance garda has told a barrister defending a man on trial for conspiracy to murder that it's “disgusting” to suggest their evidence is unreliable.
Liam Brannigan (37) from Bride Street, Dublin 8, is charged with conspiring to murder Gary Hanley at a location within the State between September 15 and November 6, 2017.
The accused has pleaded not guilty.
The court previously heard that Mr Brannigan was arrested at Hanover Court, Hanover Lane, Dublin 8 “minutes” after a loaded semi-automatic pistol was seized during the arrest of two men a “short distance” from Mr Hanley’s home on November 6th, 2017.
Today the Special Criminal Court heard further evidence from several members of the National Surveillance Unit about observations they made in respect of several individuals including Mr Brannigan and three men who have already pleaded guilty to the plot to kill Mr Hanley and been jailed - Luke Wilson, Joseph Kelly and Alan Wilson.
Twenty surveillance officers gave such evidence today and Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, for Mr Brannigan, put it to almost every witness that their identification evidence was either unreliable or could not be sufficiently tested.
He based this on various reasons including an absence of notes pertaining to some observations; some officers not noting the speed of travelling vehicles within which people were observed; some guards not noting the distance between them and the people being watched; and some officers claiming privilege over their specific position while making the observation.
Every officer rejected the claim.
Garda EN told the court that at 11.10am, on October 6th, 2017, they saw Liam Brannigan sitting in the front passenger seat of a black Renault Laguna being driven by a man, not before the court, along Fairview Strand and travelling in the direction of Clontarf, Dublin 3.
The guard said they saw the vehicle make a left turn onto Fairview Avenue Lower and, after that, they made no more sightings.
At the opening of the trial Seán Gillane SC, for the State, said the court would hear that this Renault Laguna was used by Mr Brannigan and his co-conspirators for surveillance and for "ferrying" the co-conspirators.
Under cross-examination, Garda EN confirmed to Mr Ó Lideadha SC that they did not make any notes about their observation.
Garda EN said it’s not possible to make notes while mobile and added: “I made one sighting that was very, very clear and unobstructed.”
The court has heard that most surveillance officers convey their observations over the Garda’s radio communication system as they happen and that the team leader on duty draws up a daily report of all the observations made.
Mr Ó Lideadha put it to Garda EN that, according to the team leader’s daily report for October 6, 2017, it was observed that the person in the front passenger seat of the black Renault Laguna was “similar to Liam Brannigan”.
The barrister: "You’re being asked to explain, if you can, why it is that the report says ‘front seat passenger similar to Liam Brannigan’. Why is that do you think?
“I’m putting it to you that this appears to be a reflection of what you said over the radio. I’m asking, is it possible that that is how you put it over the radio at the time, that the man was ‘similar to Liam Brannigan’?”
The guard said they were “very clear” in their evidence and that they identified Liam Brannigan as the front seat passenger.
Mr Ó Lideadha said he wanted to suggest to Garda EN that it appears from the report that there was “no definite identification” of Liam Brannigan up to the point after Garda EN lost sight of the vehicle.
He said Garda EN had written in their statement that they could “clearly see the vehicle had two occupants”, followed by a new sentence stating “[man who is not before the court] was driving and his passenger was Liam Brannigan”.
Mr Ó Lideadha said: “You don’t actually specifically say that you could see the drivers...what you say [in their statement] is that you could clearly see the car had two occupants."
Garda EN said they named the two people in the car and added: “It was clear to me who they were.”
However, Mr Ó Lideadha suggested: “If that were true, it would have appeared in the report of the team leader. And I want to suggest to you that you’re not a reliable witness.”
Garda EN replied: “That’s a disgusting remark.”
The guard went on to say that at the time of the observation, the Renault Laguna was in the wrong lane to turn left and Garda EN actually flashed to the vehicle to turn left. They said this proximity afforded them a “clear and unobstructed view” of the Renault Laguna.
However, the barrister said this detail was not in their statement and suggested it was “unfair” to produce such detail that wasn't in their statement.
Garda EN said they believed that Mr Ó Lideadha was being “very pedantic” and “quite tedious".
Earlier, just as Garda EN was called to the witness box, Mr Ó Lideadha in jest remarked that Garda EN’s second initial was “N for nolle prosequi”, while Mr Gillane quickly responded: “N for no chance.”
The exchange prompted laughter across the court, including from the accused.
Luke Wilson (24), from Cremona Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin, and Joseph Kelly (35) of Kilworth Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12, were arrested on Philipsburgh Avenue, Dublin 3, just after 8pm on November 6, 2017, during which a semi-automatic pistol was seized.
Alan Wilson (39) of New Street Gardens, Dublin 8, was arrested on the same night.
Luke Wilson, who also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a Beretta handgun with intent to endanger life, was jailed for 11 years; Alan Wilson was given six years and Joseph Kelly, who also admitted a weapons charge, was jailed for a total of 12 years.