Evidence found in Colombia can be used by gardaí

GARDAÍ travelling to Colombia should be able to use evidence gathered by police there to pursue their investigations here into the Colombia Three, a leading legal expert said yesterday.

Two detectives are due to fly out tomorrow to examine police investigation files and speak to officers involved in the case.

The gardaí will look for any evidence or information against Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly that could be used back in Ireland.

They're likely to focus on the case against Mr Connolly who was convicted of travelling on a false passport.

The other two were using false British passports.

Criminal law barrister Paul McDermott said gardaí should be able to use any evidence legally obtained in Colombia to aid any further investigation and possible prosecution.

"Evidence is evidence, as long as they got it legally," he said.

"I can't think of any rule against bringing a real piece of evidence back."

He said if the evidence was used in a prosecution here, the gardaí would have to explain how they got it.

"The prosecution would have to explain where they got it from, show where it came from and call that person, who investigated the case, to say 'this is how I got it'."

He said the Colombian police files could contain two different types of evidence of use to gardaí.

"It could give gardaí an investigative roadmap that would lead to evidence. It could also contain a real piece of evidence, such as a false application form."

Professor Dermot Walsh of the Centre for Criminal Justice at University of Limerick said it was not entirely clear what gardaí could do with evidence in the Colombian files.

"I doubt what the Colombian authorities have would be of benefit. There may be something in the file which provides evidence of one of them having done something in this country to get the passport, or having used it here. If it only covers what they did outside the country, I don't see how it's of any use."

Prof Walsh last week accused Justice Minister Michael McDowell of interfering in the garda investigation, by "steering" it.

Mr McDowell rejected the claims.

The two gardaí one from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and one from Crime and Security will submit any information or evidence to the investigation team here on their return.

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