Gilligan: I did not receive a proper trial

Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan has claimed before the Supreme Court that he did not receive a proper trial when his assets were frozen by the State in 1996.

As a result, his lawyers say, subsequent court rulings based on that decision were flawed or invalid.

He wants a five-judge Supreme Court to revisit a decision it made in 2008 declaring certain of his assets, and those of his family, came from the proceeds of crime.

The family is also appealing a 2011 High Court decision which forfeited to the State certain of his assets and those of his family.

The property included an equestrian centre in Enfield, Co Meath, which Gilligan had bought and developed before he spent 17 years in prison for drug trafficking. Other property owned by his former wife Geraldine, daughter Tracey and son Darren, was also found to be the proceeds of crime.

The Gilligans claimed the properties were bought from legitimate earnings. In 2011, the late Mr Justice Kevin Feeney found their explanations incredible and improbable in a High Court judgment.

All four members of the family were in the Supreme Court for a two-day hearing of their appeal in which they are seeking to overturn the previous proceeds of crime orders.

They are represented by three queen’s counsel from London. They were previously granted free legal aid for the appeal.

They are also bringing a challenge claiming their constitutional and European Convention rights have been breached.

The Criminal Assets Bureau, which obtained the orders and has since sold off the Enfield equestrian centre, disputes they have any right to bring a further appeal.

Michael Bromley-Martin, presenting the case for all the Gilligans in appealing the 2011 High Court decision, said in 1996 the family never got the opportunity, as provided for under Section 3 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, to challenge the basis on which CAB applied to freeze the assets.

This meant that all subsequent court decisions were not valid. The late Mr Justice Feeney, whose 2011 ruling they were appealing, had ruled that his hands were tied due to the 2008 Supreme Court decision, counsel said.

However, it was their case the invalidity of the original freezing orders gave effect to injustice, he said.

That effect was the Gilligans were deprived of property they lawfully owned and possessed without having had a trial of the proceeds of crime issue, he said.

John Hardy, presenting the case for the Supreme Court to revisit the 2008 decision, said it did meet the exceptional circumstances test for such a revisit.

Asked by Mr Justice William McKechnie was he saying that the 2008 decision by the Supreme Court was self-contradictory and inherently inconsistent, Mr Hardy said “yes”.

Counsel said it was necessary for the matter to be clarified so that citizens may know what is lawful and what is not.

Ben O’Floinn, for CAB, said this “extraordinary application” had something of an “Alice through the looking glass” feel to it.

The hearing continues.


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