The Monk Hutch, Sits, Quietly, in the Dock, while the Whingeing Begins?

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Hutch trial: ‘Whinging’ in the court as The Monk’s defence sets out stall early

2nd November 2022

It’s been clear from Brendan Grehan SC’s line of questioning when cross-examining members of the covert Garda National Surveillance Unit members what he’s been driving at.

On day 10 of the trial of Gerard Hutch, accused of murdering David Byrne in the Regency Hotel on February 5, 2016, the lead defence counsel for “The Monk” made it even more explicit in an address to the court on Wednesday after a witness had stood down.

A bit tongue-in-cheek, Mr Grehan described it not so much as a “submission” to court, as a “whinge”. “The court will have noted we’ve been asking questions of various witnesses, trying to establish a number of things,” he began.

“Whether the Toyota Land Cruiser [being driven by Jonathan Dowdall and with Mr Hutch allegedly a passenger] was followed across the border into Northern Ireland… Whether a tracker was used, and we’ve got no headway on that. It’s of great significance if a tracker was deployed by gardaí and used outside the State.” 

Mr Grehan said the defence would make the case that if a tracker was placed on this vehicle and used outside the State, it would be illegal. He also said that the defence has a “great interest in knowing how a specific inquiry came to be made” in terms of CCTV footage from the North.

CCTV footage

The court has already seen footage allegedly showing Mr Dowdall and Mr Hutch at a petrol station north of the border in Armagh and later at the Quays Shopping Centre in Newry, Co. Down, on February 20, 2016.

The court has also heard evidence that a PSNI officer was requested to attend these locations and seek footage just over a week later. Mr Grehan said that in attempting to establish why this CCTV was sought at these sites, they have had “limited success with witnesses so far”.

So far, two PSNI officers have given evidence at being requested to chase up CCTV footage at particular locations by a superior. They have given evidence of attending these locations and getting that CCTV and this has been shown to the court.

“We were provided with a witness yesterday who did the same task, they’re tasked by someone else to do it, and we don’t get the person tasking them,” he said. “I’m going to keep asking the questions. It’d be unfortunate if we have a truncated trial, where we get a witness and all we’re getting is they’re to say they collected the CCTV but nothing about the background of how it came about.” 

Sean Gillance SC, prosecuting, then got up to also address the court. He began “I’m going to resist whinging back”. He said that “issues are now being conflated skillfully at a point convenient to Mr Grehan”. 

Mr Gillane also said that he was providing “proof of footage” to the court. As in, he was proving to the court where the footage it was seeing had come from. He said that issues of privilege — such as surveillance witnesses claiming privilege when asked about the use of tracking devices — “will be dealt with undoubtedly”.

Ms Justice Tara Burns described what Mr Grehan had raised as a “lightning bolt” as to what might be at play in this case. After more brief comments from Mr Grehan, Ms Justice Burns remarked: “I think that’s enough of the whinging at present.” 

The judge had earlier rebuked the prosecution team over how documents have been redacted and disclosed to the defence.

Redactions

A PSNI detective constable, Laura McLelland, was the first witness at the court today. She collected CCTV from the Maldron Hotel near Belfast International Airport, showing events on March 7, 2016. The court has seen this footage which allegedly shows Mr Hutch briefly leave Mr Dowdall’s Land Cruiser and enter the hotel, speaking to a member of staff at reception before leaving again.

There was a break in proceedings where a copy of the notes, which she had made at the time in 2016 and brought with her to court today, were photocopied for use by the defence. It became apparent that sections of the notes had been redacted. 

These sections did not relate to the Maldron, but did relate to other locations she had been sent to in order to establish if there was relevant CCTV related to the investigation. Ms Justice Burns asked the prosecution if they had seen these redactions and made clear that the prosecution “must read each and every redaction”.

“We need to ensure all relevant material is provided to the defence unless there’s a claim of privilege,” she said. “It’s not good enough that the document is handed over with redactions.” Mr Gillane said the court’s criticism should be directed at him and there’d been “clearly a misunderstanding”.

Ms Burns added: “I take this extremely seriously. I always have. You have a duty. Court has a duty. I don’t expect any document to be handed over that the prosecution hasn’t assessed in terms of revelance and privilege.

“I don’t want to have to raise this issue again.” A similar situation regarding redactions had come up on Tuesday where Ms Justice Burns had told the prosecution: “I assume nothing will happen like that again”.

Garda NSU testimony

In the afternoon, the court turned back to evidence from members of the Garda National Surveillance Unit (NSU). And again, Mr Grehan pressed these members on whether they had followed any of the vehicles of interest into Northern Ireland during their surveillance.

Member CX gave evidence describing observing Shane Rowan in Donegal on March 9, 2016. The court has heard that Mr Rowan travelled to Dublin that day in a Vauxhall Insignia and was observed in a car with the Monk’s brother, Patrick Hutch Senior. Mr Rowan was later arrested by gardaí near Slane in possession of three AK-47-style weapons the prosecution says were used in the Regency Hotel attack.

The garda said he observed Mr Rowan crossing the border at Clady, and later after he had crossed back into this jurisdiction in Monaghan.

“I didn’t observe him in the north, so I don’t know what route he took,” the garda member said. “I’d no observation of Shane Rowan or the Insignia in the north. He could’ve been [on the same road].” 

Member CX said he would have crossed the border “shortly afterwards”, after he observed Mr Rowan doing so. When asked if there was a tracker device on the Insignia, he said he claimed privilege on that question.

The court has already seen footage allegedly showing Mr Dowdall and Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch  (pictured) at a petrol station north of the border in Armagh and later at the Quays Shopping Centre in Newry, Co. Down, on February 20, 2016. File picture: Courtpix© Provided by Irish Examiner

The court has already seen footage allegedly showing Mr Dowdall and Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch  (pictured) at a petrol station north of the border in Armagh and later at the Quays Shopping Centre in Newry, Co. Down, on February 20, 2016. File picture: Courtpix

At the close of proceedings today, Mr Gillane was asked by Ms Justice Burns where the prosecution’s case stood and what would come next. Mr Gillane said they would “lance the boil one way or the other” on matters of privilege by the end of next week, and other matters raised by Grehan, such as recordings made.

He did add that “substantial progress” was being made, but this was “subject to rulings” to be made by the court.

In the following weeks, evidence is likely to then be given by Jonathan Dowdall, himself. Given Mr Gillane told the court on day one of the trial that the court would hear that the former Sinn Féin councillor was told by Mr Hutch that he was “one of the team that shot Mr Byrne at the Regency”, his evidence will be crucial to the case against the Monk.

The case continues

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