Lawyers for a Ballymun man jailed for his role in an attempted robbery have claimed his trial was unfair because the State “cleansed” the jury of people from Ballymun, Cabra and Finglas.
Joesph Warren (aged 32), of Belclare Crescent, Ballymun, had pleaded not guilty to conspiring to steal cash from Chubb Ireland at Tesco supermarket on the Shackleton Road in Cellbridge on November 2, 2007.
Warren had earlier pleaded guilty to possessing ammunition at Poppintree Park, Ballymun on July 19, 2009.
A jury at Dublin Circuit Court found Warren guilty of conspiring to steal and he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Judge Patrick McCartan on November 14, 2012.
The Court of Appeal heard today that the attempted robbery was carried out by a gang of four men all from an area “in or around Finglas” lead by the late Eamon Dunne - who had family living in Cabra.
Opening an appeal against conviction, Warren's barrister, Michael Bowman SC, submitted that the Director of Public Prosecutions “cleansed” the jury of people from three geographical locations in Dublin – Cabra, Ballymun and Finglas.
Mr Bowman said the DPP had "no confidence" in the impartiality of people from these three areas.
The DPP's position was that “there's a risk that jurors from Cabra, Ballymun and Finglas could not bring the requisite impartiality to the matter” because the gang behind the attempted robbery was based primarily in those areas, Mr Bowman said.
It was a “blanket ban”, Mr Bowman said, based on an “assumption that any juror from these three areas could not be trusted”.
Mr Bowman said the only reason a juror could be excluded from serving was in accordance with the 1976 Juries Act, which provides for seven objections without reason and as many objections as reasons or causes could be identified.
Objections to individual jurors were a regular occurrence and were supposed to be made transparently in open court, Mr Bowman said.
But in Warren's case the DPP manifestly transgressed this procedure by telling up to 15 potential jurors “downstairs” that they could not even “enter the room”.
He said no attempt was made to ask the 15 people with addresses in Cabra, Ballymun or Finglas what they might know, who they might know or not know about the case.
The process was “skewed, manipulated and contrived” as a consequence of an unlawful and unconstitutional interference with the jury selection.
Warren was entitled to be tried by a cross section of his peers, Mr Bowman said.
He was a young man from Ballymun and he was denied the right to be tried by young men with the same socio-economic background, the same social status and who grew up with the same pressures as he had.
Warren's defence was that he had acted “under duress”, Mr Bowman said and the DPP entitled him be tried by "middle class men".
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Seán Guerin SC, said Ballymun, Finglas and Cabra were three limited areas of the entire city of Dublin and the exclusion of those three areas did not reflect the ability of Dublin to produce a broadly representative jury.
Mr Guerin said the prosecution effectively objected on the basis of a reason or cause shown. “We just didn't do it individually, we did it collectively”.
Citing a former Chief Justice's view on a case related to joyriding, Mr Guerin said people's addresses was a cause for juror objection. It was not a question of those people's integrity, he said, but the integrity of the trial process.
Mr Guerin said there was no right to have a jury from a particular area. Applications were often made to transfer trials out of certain jurisdictions.
Self evidently, Mr Guerin said, there was no provision to transfer cases out of Dublin because of its size.
Mr Guerin said the attempted robbery involved six conspirators.
The four, who pleaded guilty were all from in or around the Finglas area. Eamon Dunne, who had been killed, had family in Cabra.
The significance of Cabra was that the shooting of Eamon Dunne on Fassaugh Avenue in 2010 was a notorious event, Mr Guerin said, “and certainly notorious in Cabra”.
When Dunne was shot, Warren and the gang “rushed” to the scene “to see their fallen leader”.
Notwithstanding the efforts made, a difficulty did arise in the trial where a juror revealed a connection to the Finglas/Ballymun area which brought them close to one of the co-accused but not Warren, Mr Guerin said.
In response, Mr Bowman said it was the late Mr Justice Paul Carney's intention to take trials “down the country” because he wanted to bring cases “back to the community”.
For example, Mr Bowman recalled the trial of Co Mayo farmer Pádraig Nally which Mr Justice Carney wanted to be held in his community, he said.
Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the court would reserve judgment.