Convicted drugs dealer John Gilligan today lost his Supreme Court appeal against conviction for the possession of cannabis resin for sale and supply.
The five judges unanimously dismissed Gilligan's appeal against conviction and ruled that the State is entitled to establish a witness protection programme.
Gilligan was not in court for the judgement and his counsel Mr Michael O' Higgins SC said that the only matter remaining was an appeal against sentence.
The court gave Mr O' Higgins three weeks to enter submissions on the appeal against sentence and prosecuting counsel Mr Tom O' Connell SC three weeks to enter a reply to the those submissions.
In their judgement today the judges said: "In an ideal world there would be no need for witnesses who were in a witness protection programme or who were accomplices of an accused.
"The development of a witness protection programme is a reflection of a need arsiing in our times. It
is a consequence of a society where there gangs, drugs trafficking, violence and death, and very significant sums of money being made from criminal activity.''
After a lengthy trial which began in late 2000, the Special Criminal Court cleared Gilligan in 2001 of the murder of journalist Veronia Guerin in June 1996 and also acquitted him of firearms charges.
Gilligan was convicted of possession of an estimated 20,000 kilograms of cannabis resin over a two year period and was jailed for 28 years which was later reduced on appeal to 20 years.
The Supreme Court was asked to decide two points of law referred to it by the Court of Criminal Appeal arising from that court's judgment last year rejecting Gilligan's appeal against his conviction.
The points relate to the circumstances under which evidence from witnesses involved in a witness protection programme is inadmissible in a criminal trial and to the nature of corroborative evidence required from accomplice witnesses who have participated in a witness protection programme.
On behalf of Gilligan, Mr Michael O'Higgins SC and Mr John Rogers SC, argued that evidence given against him at trial had been obtained from three witnesses, Charles Bowden, John Dunne and Russell Warren by a process of interview, inducement and concession. It was contended those
men were encouraged to co-operate by being paid money.
Opposing the appeal, Mr Peter Charleton SC, for the DPP, submitted the entire case against Gilligan had been well corroborated.
The prosecution had proved that Gilligan had been involved in a drugs gang through circumstantial evidence and from the evidence of three accomplices.
There was evidence he was leader of the gang and the main wholesaler in the drugs operation, counsel said.
In separate proceedings, the Supreme Court has reserved judgment on a challenge by the State to a decision that the Special Criminal Court was not entitled to make an order in 2002 for the confiscation of some €17m from Gilligan as alleged profits from his drug activities.
The appeal is against a High Court finding that the Special Criminal Court had no jurisdiction to make an order in 2002 for the confiscation of some €17m from Gilligan, which figure the court assessed as profits from drug trafficking.
Many of Gilligan's assets remain frozen under an order secured some years ago by the Criminal Assets Bureau in separate proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996.