Supreme Court ruling on right to lawyer will impact Garda inquiries

Judges find suspects who request legal advice cannot be questioned until solicitor arrives

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling today quashing an attempted rape conviction on grounds that suspects who request a lawyer cannot be questioned by gardaí until they get that legal advice

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling today quashing an attempted rape conviction on grounds that suspects who request a lawyer cannot be questioned by gardaí until they get that legal advice

Thu, Mar 6, 2014, 21:24

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling today has very significant implications for Garda investigations and prosecutions.

The judgement quashed an attempted rape conviction on grounds that suspects who request a lawyer cannot be questioned by gardaí until they get that legal advice.

On those grounds, the court today overturned the 2008 conviction of Raymond Gormley (29), Glenwood Park, Letterkenny, who was jailed for six years for the attempted rape of a mother-of-two as she slept in her bedroom on April 24th 2005.

The five judge court found that statements made by Mr Gormley to gardaí, after he had requested a solicitor but before that solicitor arrived, were inadmissible evidence.

However, in a separate but linked case, the court unanimously rejected arguments that forensic samples taken from another man, Craig White, after he sought a solicitor and prior to that solicitor’s arrival,  were inadmissible evidence. White, of O’Devaney Gardens, Dublin, is serving a life sentence for the murder of Noel Roche (27) at Clontarf Road, Dublin, in November 2005 and his conviction stands following today’s ruling.

Both appeals concerned the issue of whether evidence obtained by gardaí at a time after a suspect in custody has requested legal advice, but before that advice has become available, can be regarded as admissible.

Giving the court’s judgment on both cases, Mr Justice Frank Clarke said it was important to stress that issues of this type have been the subject of legal debate in many jurisdictions for some time.

The fact these issues would ultimately come to be considered as a matter of Irish constitutional law “can have come as no surprise”, he said.

The position in Mr Gormley’s case was that his interrogation began while the arrival of s solicitor was being awaited while the facts in Mr White’s case were that forensic samples were taken while efforts were being made to secure the attendance of a solicitor who had been contacted to advise Mr White.

The distinction between the two cases was that the evidence obtained in Gormley’s case was as a result of statements made during interrogation whereas the evidence in Mr White’s case was objective forensic evidence.

Under existing Irish law, the position to date had been, while a constitutional right to legal advice in custody has been recognised, it has not yet been held that evidence-gathering must be suspended while legal advice becomes available, he said.

However, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights case makes clear the conviction of a person by placing significant reliance on admissions made during questioning was impermissible, he said.