The gangland killer of Limerick rugby player, Shane Geoghegan, has failed in his attempt to get Europe’s top human rights court where he claimed he didn't have a fair trial.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled today by a 6-1 majority that restrictions placed on Barry Doyle’s access to a solicitor during garda interviews did not breach his right to a fair trial - a blow in his attempt to overturn the conviction.
Doyle, who is currently servicing a life sentence in Mountjoy, had taken a challenge to the Strasbourg-based court to attempt to have his conviction for the murder of Mr Geoghegan quashed.
The Garryowen player was killed in a case of mistaken identity as he arrived home to his house in Dooradoyle in Limerick on November 9, 2008,
Doyle (33) from Portland Row in Dublin had been recruited by members of Limerick’s notorious Dundon gang to carry out a hit on a rival gang member, a man known as John “Pitchfork” McNamara, but he wrongfully identified his target as Mr Geoghegan.
He was arrested in February 2009 and taken to a garda station where he was informed of his rights and given access to a solicitor.
Doyle was subsequently interviewed many times and had access to a solicitor in person and by phone prior to and during interviews but the solicitor was not physically present at the actual interviews.
He admitted killing Mr Geoghegan in his 15th interview by gardai in which he also provided details about the crime.
In a retrial before the Central Criminal Court in February 2012, after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his first trial for murder, Doyle’s lawyers sought to have his admissions to gardaí while in custody excluded amid claims that he had been induced, threatened and denied access to legal advice.
Such objections were dismissed by the trial judge, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and he was convicted of Mr Geoghegan’s murder by a jury.
Doyle subsequently failed in appeals to the Court of Appeal and to the Supreme Court where a 6-1 majority ruled against his challenge.
In its ruling, the ECHR said it was a fundamental aspect of a right to a fair trial that every accused had a right to be defended by a lawyer.
It noted that all three Irish courts which had heard Doyle’s case had established that his admissions had not been brought about by inducement or threat.
The court noted that he had been able to challenge the admissibility of the evidence during a 10-day trial within a trial in his prosecution for the murder of Mr Geoghegan.
The ECHR said there were “sound public interest considerations in prosecuting Doyle as he had been charged following the killing of an innocent victim as a result of a mistaken identity in a feud between criminal gangs,
“There had been other procedural safeguards, such as the fact that all police interviews, had been recorded on video and had been made available to judges and the jury,” the ECHR said.
The ECHR said the majority of judges in the Supreme Court ruling had wrongly concluded that Doyle’s right of access to a lawyer did not extend to having a lawyer physically present during interviews by gardaí, although it noted that the practice has subsequently changed.
However, the ECHR said it concluded that the overall fairness of the case had not been irretrievably prejudiced having assessed the impact of the restriction on access to a lawyer at the pre-trial stage.
The Ukranian member of the seven-judge court, Ganna Yudkivska, issued a minority judgement in Doyle’s favour.
It remains open for Doyle to ask for today's judgement to be referred to the ECHR’s Grand Chamber for a final ruling.