Garda interviews ruled inadmissible at IRA trial

The Special Criminal Court ruled today that garda interviews with five Dublin men arrested in Bray and later charged with IRA membership were not admissible in evidence because they were detained in a garda station for 20 hours with little or no sleep.

The Special Criminal Court ruled today that garda interviews with five Dublin men arrested in Bray and later charged with IRA membership were not admissible in evidence because they were detained in a garda station for 20 hours with little or no sleep.

Mr Justice Diarmuid O' Donovan, presiding, said the court was concerned the five men had been detained for 12 hours under the Criminal Justice Act and had been interviewed and none of them had "very much in the way of sleep".

The men were then rearrested under the Offences Against the State Act on suspicion of membership of an illegal organisation and were then detained for a further period of hours during which they had no sleep before being interviewed.

"In essence, therefore, each of the accused was detained in a garda station which must have been a hostile environment for them, notwithstanding that there is no suggestion that any one of them was ever treated with hostility, for approximately 20 hours with little or no sleep.

"Moreover while perhaps they did not appear to the members of the Garda Siochana whom interviewed them to be excessively tired, they must have been tired and the interviewing members of the gardaí must have suspected that they were tired given that they (the gardaí) must have known than they (the accused) had had little sleep over a long period of time during which they had been subjected to other interviews," the judge said.

"The court is not satisfied to admit in evidence what transpired during each of the interviews to which each of the accused was subjected on the evening of October 11, 2002," the judge added.

The court has heard that each of the accused refused to answer questions relating to membership of an illegal organisation during interviews with gardaí.

Under the Offences Against the State Act (Amendment) Act of 1998 a court is entitled to draw inferences from a failure to answer material questions.

Following the court's ruling Mr George Birmingham SC made a closing submission for the prosecution after defence counsel for each of the accused said they were not going into defence evidence.

The court ruled last week that the accused had been lawfully arrested and detained by gardaí after they were seen acting suspiciously in Bray.

The court has heard gardaí recovered a large quantity of Sinn Féin posters, including election posters for Sinn Féin TD Aengus O' Snodaigh, from a car in which they also found a stun gun and CS gas canister after the men's arrest.

It was the 24th day of the trial of the five men. The trial has heard gardaí recovered a CS gas canister, a stun gun, pick axe handles, balaclavas and a fake garda jacket after five men were seen acting suspiciously around three vehicles by an off duty Special Branch officer.

The court has heard gardai found four of the men seated on the floor of a Transit van and two of them were dressed in fake garda uniforms.

The five Dublin men have pleaded not guilty to membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on October 11, 2002.

They are Thomas Gilson, aged 24, of Bawnlea Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght; Patrick Brennan, aged 40, of Lindisfarne Avenue, Clondalkin, Sean O' Donnell, aged 32, of Castle Drive, Sandymount, John Troy, aged 22, of Donard Avenue and Stephen Birney, aged 30, of Conquerhill Road, Clontarf.

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