Two men have failed in their appeal against their convictions for membership of the INLA linked to a tiger kidnapping plot in Cork.
The Court of Criminal Appeal today dismissed the applications of John McCrossan (aged 49), Ballycoleman Estate, Strabane, Co Tyrone, and Neil Myles (aged 56), a native of Cork of no fixed abode, who were each jailed for four-and-a-half years at the Special Criminal Court in July 2009.
They had denied membership of an unlawful organisation, namely the Irish National Liberation Army, within the State on February 22, 2008, and were convicted after a four-week trial in front of the non-jury court.
The trial of the two men heard there was “background evidence of a well-organised plot to carry out some criminal enterprise in respect of a businessman and/or his family in Cork”.
The intended target was allegedly Mr Denis Maguire, who lived with his family at Lover's Walk, Montenotte, Cork.
Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, sitting with Mr Justice Daniel Herbert and Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said that having read the judgement of the SCC, the appeal court could not say there was an “insufficiency of evidence” to enable the non-jury court to convict the two men.
Mr Justice Finnegan said the men had failed to establish any error in law applied to the assessment of facts by the SCC and accordingly dismissed their applications to appeal.
Counsel for McCrossan, Mr John Phelan SC, told the court that there was “not a shred of evidence” that his client had any “hand, act or part” in the alleged INLA organisational meetings gardaí had placed under surveillance before arresting the men.
He said his client’s primary role was as an assistant to another man arrested during the same investigation, Edward McGarrigle (aged 44), who is wheelchair-bound. McGarrigle was jailed for three years for INLA membership in May 2010.
Mr Phelan said interview transcripts illustrated that McCrossan may not have understood the caution given to him by gardaí, which outlined how officials could draw certain inferences from his failure or refusal to answer material question regarding his membership of an unlawful organisation.
He reminded the court that McCrossan had denied membership of an illegal organisation 70 times over the course of five interviews with gardaí.
Mr Blaise O’Carroll SC, for Myles, told the court that his client “only came in to the picture” on February 21, a day before the offence, and his name was never mentioned by gardaí in intelligence briefings or meetings prior to arrest.
He said that, if belief evidence proffered by Assistant Commissioner Kevin Ludlow was to be believed and Myles indeed had been a member of the INLA from late 2005 onwards, it would be expected that he would have had a greater participation in events.
Counsel for the State, Mr Bernard Condon SC, said that the Special Criminal Court properly considered all evidence before it and there was no challenge made by either defence team as to how the evidence was received by the court.
He said that, during the trial, no suggestion was made of McCrossan having been “in anyway confused” by garda questioning, and as no application was made as to admissibility of this evidence by the defence, the material was therefore properly before the court.
Mr Condon reminded the court that garda interview transcripts revealed there was “page after page of no replies”.
He said that Mr O’Carroll had raised the issue of the lack of evidence of Myles' activities between 2005 and 2008 during closing submissions at the original trial and that there was no reason to believe the court had not considered this when returning judgement.
The court heard that the men were under Garda surveillance when they held meetings in Dublin and Cork between August 2007 and February 2008.
In sentencing the men, presiding SCC judge Mr Justice Paul Butler remarked that the court was only dealing with the offence of membership as the men had not been charged with any other offence.