CONTROVERSY erupted yesterday when the former lover of murder accused Eamon Lillis was allowed to use a secure underground entrance to the Criminal Courts of Justice complex in Dublin to avoid photographers.
Jean Treacy, 32, was escorted in and out of the new courts building on Parkgate Street by gardaí without being recorded by either newspaper photographers or TV camera crews.
The National Newspapers of Ireland, which represents most Irish daily and Sunday newspapers, considered seeking a last-minute High Court injunction to compel Ms Treacy, one of the primary prosecution witnesses, to leave the building by the normal public exit once editors of several national titles became aware of the issue during the course of yesterday morning.
However, the move was abandoned due to the short notice for the proposed application and the fact that Ms Treacy had already completed her evidence by the time the case could have come before the High Court.
“It has been decided not to seek an injunction but rather try to resolve the matter through urgent consultation with the Courts Service and the Gardaí,” said NNI director Frank Cullen.
It is believed that the NNI has arranged a meeting with the Courts Service on Friday to discuss the issue.
Several newspaper editors and court photographers had previously voiced concern that the opening of the new courts complex meant many prisoners already in custody could not be photographed. However, it had not been anticipated that there would be any difficulty with the photographing of witnesses apart from those who could not be identified for legal reasons.
It is understood every other witness in the Lillis murder trial, which has no major security concerns about the safety of people due to give evidence, has accessed the building through the main public entrance.
A Garda spokesperson refused to explain the basis on which Ms Treacy had been provided with a Garda escort to and from the Criminal Courts of Justice. “It is not appropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation before the courts,” he added.
The spokesperson also declined to comment on whether the decision to facilitate Ms Treacy’s appearance as a prosecution witness was one taken on the initiative of An Garda Siochána or at her request.
A spokesperson for the Courts Service said it had no part to play in making a decision to transport witnesses through the secure entrance to the Criminal Courts of Justice or any courthouse.
However, it is understood that the secure entrance is manned by Courts Service personnel, who check the identity of personnel passing through.
A security source said that it was unprecedented that gardaí had provided such a facility to a witness about whom there were no security concerns.
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