Court refuses Garda bid to exclude media while surveillance officers give evidence in gang killing trial
The Special Criminal Court has refused an application by gardai to ban the media from court while officers who took part in covert operations give evidence in the trial of a man accused of assisting a Kinahan cartel murder plot.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt ruled there was “nothing wrong” with the media being present as long as there was no identification of the surveillance gardai who are to give evidence.
The prosecution made an application for the non-jury court to be cleared today in the case of Douglas Glynn (37) of Fitzgibbon Court, Dublin 1, who has pleaded not guilty to placing a tracker device on James ‘Mago’ Gately’s car in Belfast in April 2017.
Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, has told the court that it is the State’s case that there was “an ongoing plan” to target Mr Gately because he was a “allegedly a member of a rival organisation” to those targeting him.
Detective Sergeant David Carolan has told the court he was aware that Mr Gately was involved “in a feud with the Kinahan organised crime group” and that Mr Gately “had a wider association with the Hutch organised crime group”. He said that Mr Gately was “being targeted by the Kinahan organised crime group at the time”.
The charge alleges that between December 7, 2016, and April 6, 2017, both dates inclusive, within and outside the State, with knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation, and with the intention of enhancing the ability of the said criminal organisation, or any of its members, to commit a crime or a serious offence, namely the murder of James Gately, he participated in or contributed to activities connected with the said offence.
Before surveillance evidence was called today, Mr McGinn, for the DPP, applied to the three-judge court for it to be cleared of the public and the media due to both the nature of the work and the identities of surveillance gardaí.
Mr McGinn was moving an application on behalf of Detective Superintendent Ciaran Hoey to anonymise the names and descriptions of members of the National Surveillance Unit in An Garda Síochána and to “exclude members of the public and the media during the course of their evidence”.
Mr McGinn said his application on behalf of the superintendent was that the identity of NSU members and their work should be “protected from public scrutiny” and that this included the media.
Mr Justice Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, said there was “nothing wrong” with the media being present to report as long as there was no identification of the NSU Garda members giving evidence.
Mr Justice Hunt said that the National Surveillance Unit members could be referred to by initials and the court should be “cleared, save for participants and the media” but that there was to be no reporting of the identity or the characteristics of the NSU witnesses.
Returning to the trial, Shane Costelloe SC, defending, said that one of the NSU witnesses “purportedly” took two photographs of his client at a time “crucial” to the prosecution’s case.
Mr Costelloe said that the defence had sought disclosure regarding whether or not the camera or device used in taking the photos had a GPS function because his client denied it could have been taken at the time, date and location put forward by the prosecution.
Mr McGinn said that the date and time of the photos had been provided to the defence but that there was “no geo-location available” and that privilege was being claimed in regard to what type of device was used in taking the photographs.
Mr Costelloe said that he did not care if the device was “a potato” but that he wanted to know if there was a GPS facility on the device over which the prosecution was claiming privilege.
A Garda NSU witness, referred to as ‘AG’, said that he was unaware if there was any record regarding location kept on the photographic device used on March 30, 2017, but admitted he was not a technical expert.
The prosecution alleges that the photo shows the defendant walking near St Martin Savage Park in Dublin after getting out of a vehicle allegedly linked to the plot on March 30, 2017.
Mr Justice Hunt said that the court would make no order “at the moment” to get a technical expert to examine the device used to see if there was a geo-location facility on it.
NSU member ‘BZ’ told Mr McGinn that he had been told over his radio that a male had gotten out of a blue Peugeot people-carrier at Ashtown and that he had then photographed a male walking on the footpath towards the Navan Road.
BZ told Mr Costelloe that he had tailed the Peugeot from between Dundalk and Castlebellingham in Co Louth from about 12.50pm on March 30 after being provided with a description and tailed it until it turned off the roundabout for Martin Savage Park in north Dublin.
The witness said he then received information that a male had alighted the vehicle and that he then photographed a male.
Mr Costelloe asked why only two photographs were taken and was told by BZ that “six or seven” photos may have been taken.
After making inquiries, Mr McGinn apologised to the court and said that more photos had been taken but that the investigation team were “unaware” of this.
Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Ms Justice Sarah Berkeley and Mr Justice Cormac Dunne adjourned the matter until Tuesday for the production of the photos, warning on disclosure issues that “this cannot happen again”.
Stephen Fowler (62), of Blakestown Cottages in Clonsilla, Dublin 15 and David Duffy (33) of Greenfort Lawns, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 have already been jailed for providing logistical support to the plot to murder Mr Gately.
Estonian hitman Imre Arakas (63) was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for six years in December 2018, after he admitted to conspiring with others to murder Gately in Northern Ireland between April 3 and 4, 2017.
In September, Peter Keating (40) of Rowlagh Green, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 was jailed for 11 years after he pleaded guilty in late June to directing the activities of a criminal organisation between December 7, 2016, and April 6, 2017, within and outside the State relating to the targeting of Mr Gately.