Counterfeit currency print trial collapses
THE SPECIAL Criminal Court trial of four men accused of having equipment for printing counterfeit currency has collapsed following revelations that information on a fifth suspect was deliberately kept from the defence.
The prosecution this morning entered a nolle prosequi, meaning it will not pursue the charges against: Kevin Flanagan (43), of Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois; Liam Delaney (42), with addresses at Mountrath and Borris-in-Ossory; Anthony Sloan (57), a native of Belfast with an address at Ard na Mara, Dundalk, Co Louth; and Andrew Poole (43), of Portlaoise, Co Laois.
The men had all pleaded not guilty to possession of equipment, including printers and cutting machines, to manufacture counterfeit currency at Ballybrophy, Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois, on May 31st, 2010.
Garnet Orange, prosecuting, applied to enter a nolle prosequi on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in what was the fourth week of the trial.
It emerged last week that a deliberate decision was taken not to disclose to the defence information regarding a fifth suspect in the case.
The court had heard evidence from fingerprint expert Det Garda James Cunningham that thumb marks belonging to Mr Flanagan had been found in a bunker containing printing machines that were hidden underneath a portable cabin where the men were arrested.
Last Thursday, counsel for Mr Flanagan, Fergal Kavanagh SC, told the court a document given to him by Det Garda Cunningham contained information on the presence of a fifth person in the bunker by way of fingerprint evidence.
The court heard from Det Insp Denis Heneghan, who said a redacted copy of notes made by Det Garda Cunningham had been made available to the defence team.
However, he said the original copy of the notes related to a person not currently before the court, and he was claiming legal privilege on this information because he believed if the individual were to be made available to the court their life would be put at risk.
Det Insp Heneghan told Mr Kavanagh it was decided not to disclose the full report to the defence as a matter of privilege, but accepted the defence believed full disclosure had been made when it had not, adding he thought it was “a genuine mistake” the defence were not informed of the information.
Following Mr Orange’s application yesterday, counsel for Mr Delaney, John Peart SC, said that instead of acceding to the application for a nolle prosequi, the court should dismiss the charges against the accused having found there was a “deliberate intention of the State to withhold disclosure”.
In response to Mr Peart’s application, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court was satisfied the DPP was free to enter a nolle prosequi at any stage.
He said the accused men were now entitled to disregard any bail conditions imposed upon them, adding any accounts frozen in the process of providing sureties to the court should be unfrozen.
Mr Peart further applied to have the document furnished to Mr Kavanagh last week taken from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and brought into the court file where it could be preserved and “protected”.
In reply, Mr Justice Butler said the court respectfully agreed with the submission of Mr Orange that the defence were being “unduly anxious” and he would make no order in that regard.
Mr Orange also asked to enter a nolle prosequi on an outstanding charge of IRA membership against Mr Sloan.
The accused man had been charged with membership of an illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army on October 31st, 2010.
Mr Justice Butler acceded to the application and made “any consequential orders” in relation to bail conditions imposed on Mr Sloan on that charge.
He said the court would discharge the four men.