Judgment reserved in Hutch/Dowdall challenge to Special Criminal Court

Pair claimed the decision to try them for the murder of David Byrne in the non-jury three judge Special Criminal Court breached their fundamental rights, including the right to a fair trial
Judgment reserved in Hutch/Dowdall challenge to Special Criminal Court

Gerry Hutch, 58, who was extradited from Spain, and former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall, 44, of Navan Road, Dublin, are both charged with the murder of David Byrne, 33, at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5, 2016. Picture: RollingNews.ie

Judgment has been reserved in cases brought by two men, including Gerry "The Monk" Hutch, claiming they should not be tried in the non-jury Special Criminal Court on charges of murder arising out of the Regency Hotel attack in 2016.

Hutch, 58, who was extradited from Spain, and former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall, 44, of Navan Road, Dublin, are both charged with the murder of David Byrne, 33, at the Whitehall, Dublin, hotel on February 5, 2016.

They brought judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the DPP, the Minister for Justice, the Attorney General, Ireland, Dáil Éireann, while Seanad Éireann is also a respondent in the Hutch case.

They claimed the decision to try them in the non-jury three judge Special Criminal Court breached their fundamental rights, including the right to a fair trial. They claimed, among other things, they should be tried before a judge and jury.

The respondents deny their claims.

Following a three-day hearing of legal submissions on behalf of the parties, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said he would give his judgment as soon as possible.

Lawyers for the two men argued that nearly 50 years since the proclamation setting up the current Special Criminal Court, it has effectively become a permanent fixture and the 1939 Offences Against the State Act, setting up the court, does not provide for that.

If the State wants a permanent court, it should introduce legislation permitting it to do so, they said. The 1939 act meant there was a temporal limit on the Special Criminal Court and it was not designed for the setting-up of a permanent court.

In submissions on Thursday on behalf of the Dáil and the Seanad, Francis Kieran BL said the Special Criminal Court was set up on a conditional rather than on a temporary or permanent basis.

The case on behalf of the two men had not been made out, he said. The proper meaning of the 1939 act was that the proclamation setting up the Special Criminal Court was subject to annulment by the democratic electors and it was therefore non-justiciable, he said.

No case was stateable against Dáil Éireann and much less against the Seanad, he said.

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