A civil servant accused of leaking information about the imminent arrest of a suspect in the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly, was “white as a ghost” after seeing the man appear in court, a trial has heard.
Father-of-three, Jonathan Lennon, aged 35, from Clonee, Dublin 15, has pleaded not guilty to breaking the Official Secrets Act in relation to criminal proceedings resulting from the murder of Peter Butterly.
The service officer has gone on trial before Judge John Hughes at Dublin District Court.
Judge Hughes was told the defendant allegedly alerted a third party that another person, who was a suspect, was about to be arrested after having a “nosey” in his file at work.
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 is accused of four offences contrary to Section Four and 13 of the Official Secrets Act 1963, as amended by Section 48 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997.
It is alleged that on September 7, 2017 and the following day, at a place unknown in Dublin, without authorisation, he communicated with another person official information within the possession, custody or control of the DPP, a holder of public office, relating to the prosecution of individuals arising from the murder of Peter Butterly on March 6, 2013 in an IRA feud.
Mr Lennon previously worked in the Department of Defence and was accepted to take up a service officer's position in the office of the DPP, on Infirmary Road, in Dublin.
He was working in the post room. He commenced there on January 3, 2017 and it was his role to collect, deliver and circulate files in the building.
There was a 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.
It is alleged Mr Lennon looked in the file and sent text messages to other individuals about an impending arrest, the following day, after looking in a case file in the DPP’s office.
The court heard he also sent a text saying Mr Butterly was lured by a friend to his death.
Witness Orla Keenan, who had drafted the file, said she had used the phrase "lured" in the letter to describe the murder. She said the file was yellow and marked for dispatch and return and a service officer would have collected it but would not have permission to read the documents.
Defence barrister Padraig Langsch BL put it to her that the Butterly murder had received media attention but the witness told him she was not aware the word “lured” had been used in news articles.
It was put to her that there had been chit chat in the office about the file but she denied she would have referred to it as the “IRA murder in car park file”. She told the court it was not something she would have said and she was nearly 100% certain about that.
However, it was possible that in the context of general chit chat she might have used that description.
DPP official Denis Butler, who was in charge of preparing circuit court cases, told the trial he was also involved in training and induction of new employees. New members of staff would be shown the courts, he said.
He bumped into Mr Lennon and another service officer on September 8, 2017. He was told Mr Lennon was interested in seeing the Special Criminal Court and he brought him that day.
But he advised him to leave when Mr Lennon told him he recognised a defendant in the court.
Harry Quinn, another service officer, told the trial that he was aware from previous chit chat with Mr Lennon that he had wanted to see the Special Criminal Court.
He said on September 8 after Mr Lennon went to the court he met him in again at work and he looked shocked and “white as a ghost”. Mr Quinn said Mr Lennon told him, “I knew one man in the Special Criminal Court, I played football with him seven or eight years ago”.
The trial heard CCTV footage from the building was sought when gardai began an investigation later in September 2017.
Bob Dixon, head service officer in the DPP’s building, also gave evidence today.
He told Judge Hughes there was a protocol that files were not for leisurely reading and usually service officers did no look in them. They determined where the files had to go from initials marked on them.