Man acquitted of IRA membership in Garda hotel surveillance trial
Accused walks free from court as he had only been charged with IRA membership
Corey Mulhall (41) outside court yesterday where he was found not guilty of IRA in September 2012. Photograph: Courtpix
A man who admitted his part in a surveillance operation on the Dublin headquarters of a number of specialist Garda units has been acquitted of IRA membership by the Special Criminal Court. He was able to walk free yesterday as he had only been charged with IRA membership.
There was applause from the public gallery as the non-jury court delivered its judgment on the 10th day of the trial of Corey Mulhall. He had pleaded not guilty to IRA membership on September 26th, 2012.
Mr Mulhall (43), Daletree Court, Ballycullen, Dublin, had formally admitted taking photos of the Garda complex on Harcourt Square in September 2012 after booking a room in the nearby Harcourt Hotel under the name “Jason Egan”.
In the written admissions, Mr Mulhall said a named man had offered him money to take photos of a very tall garda, who drove a black Hyundai, on behalf of another unnamed man, who was in dispute with gardaí.
The court heard that Mr Mulhall lied to gardaí when he told them he had gone to the Harcourt Hotel to meet a “bird” whose name he did not know. He said he used a false name because he did not want his wife to find out. Throughout the interviews, Mr Mulhall consistently denied membership of the IRA.
The court heard evidence from Garda Chief Supt Kevin Donohoe, who told the court that on the basis of confidential information it was his belief that Mr Mulhall was a member of the IRA on the date in question.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court was satisfied Chief Supt Donohoe was a person of integrity and much experience and accepted he held the belief expressed. However, he said the court would not convict on the basis of such a belief alone in the absence of some form of independent corroboration.
Mr Justice Butler said the court was satisfied that Mr Mulhall gave false answers and failed to answer a number of material questions put to him in Garda interview and it was entitled to draw inferences.
However, it noted that Mr Mulhall was entitled to the benefit of the doubt and, when two views on any part of the case were possible on the evidence, the court should adopt that which is favourable to the accused, unless the State had established the other beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr Justice Butler said the court found the Mr Mulhall’s admission that he was offered money by a named man to take photographs of a “very tall guard” could be a reasonable possible alternative explanation for the failure and refusal to answer material questions.
He said that the court must have some reasonable doubt as to whether he was in an unlawful organisation and it would therefore acquit Mr Mulhall.
Mr Mulhall was arrested after detectives observed suspicious activity at the Harcourt Hotel close to the Garda complex on Harcourt Square. The building is home to the Special Detective Unit, whose tasks include monitoring the activities of dissident republicans.
Deirdre Murphy SC, defending, had argued that everything pointed away from membership of the IRA, as there was a “credible alternative explanation” for Mr Mulhall’s presence at the Harcourt Hotel.
At the outset of the trial, it emerged that a document offering an alternative explanation for Mr Mulhall’s arrest was not disclosed to the defence. The document set out what the author perceived to be a number of “victories” achieved by him in an “ongoing battle” with the Stolen Motor Vehicles Unit, also based at Harcourt Square.
In the course of the 10-page document, the author makes certain allegations about gardaí in the unit and states that by September 2012, he believed the best manner to protect himself was to make the story public in the media, for which he would need photographs of the gardaí involved. The author stated that two people, who did not have a criminal record, then accompanied him to the Harcourt Hotel where photos were taken.
Later in the document, the author outlines how he paid €200 to a man he believed to be connected to dissident republicans to book a room at the Harcourt Hotel and take more photographs of Harcourt Square.
The author says he gave the man €200 to “appease him” and came to believe the man was a “Garda informer” and was there to “set him up on a fake charge”. The author states that the man later told him of the events of September 26th and how he managed to escape the Harcourt Street area. The author alleges that Mr Mulhall was arrested against this background.
Det Garda Maria Flynn of the Stolen Motor Vehicles Unit told the court that a USB key was recovered during a search carried out on a man’s residence at the K Club, Co Kildare. She said that a photograph of a member of the unit was found on the key.
Det Garda Flynn said that when she arrested the same man in May 2013, he was in possession of a document which referred to Mr Mulhall’s arrest and an explanation as to what happened in the Harcourt Hotel in September 2012. She told the court that within a few days of the arrest she contacted the SDU, asked to speak to the detective inspector overseeing the Mulhall investigation and brought the matter to his attention.
Det Garda Flynn said she was aware that the man she arrested had made a number of complaints to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and had made a specific complaint about her which was deemed to be inadmissible.