Nevin appeal seeks State papers on witnesses at trial

Sat, Apr 4, 2009, 01:00

THE COURT of Criminal Appeal has begun hearing the application by Catherine Nevin for orders requiring the DPP to hand over documents alleged to be “hugely relevant” to her bid to have her murder conviction declared a miscarriage of justice.

The documents sought include Garda security files on three men who gave evidence against Nevin at her trial, material relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and Garda security files on the three men. Nevin claims the documents will assist her in undermining the three men’s credibility.

A date for the resumed hearing will be fixed later.

Nevin (55) was found guilty in April 2000 of the murder of her husband Tom at their pub, Jack White’s Inn, Brittas Bay, on March 19th, 1996. She was also convicted of soliciting, in 1989 and 1990, Gerry Heapes, William McClean and John Jones, to kill her husband.

She is serving a life sentence on the murder charge and a concurrent seven-year term on the soliciting charges. Her appeal against conviction was dismissed in 2003.

Nevin was in court yesterday when her application opened at the three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal. It was adjourned later following a DPP application to have certain documents in the State’s possession ruled as privileged.

Tom O’Connell SC, for the DPP, argued that the documents in question, which have not been seen by Nevin’s legal team, should be deemed privileged for public interest reasons.

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, presiding, and sitting with Mr Justice Liam McKechnie and Mr Justice George Birmingham, said the court wanted the DPP to file an affidavit outlining the basis for the claim of privilege.

Nevin is seeking an order requiring the DPP to answer whether Mr McClean, Mr Heapes and Mr Jones were ever State informers and whether Mr McClean, with whom Nevin denied having an affair, had paramilitary connections.

She wants other material and documents alleged to be relevant to her claim of a miscarriage of justice. Her lawyers also intend to apply to have a journalist called to give information about an article which refers to documents alleged to be relevant to the case.

Hugh Hartnett SC, for Nevin, said Mr McClean was described in the trial as a smuggler and a counterfeiter but new facts had come to light about him.

He said a Sunday World article of February 28th, 2008, written by Niamh O’Connor, showed what purported to be a “suspect antecedent form” referring to Mr McClean which listed his associates as members of illegal and paramilitary organisations and well known criminals. This information was not available to Nevin’s defence during her trial.

The article also referred to other documents “seen by the Sunday World” revealing “more evidence that compromises the State’s case against Ms Nevin”, Mr Hartnett said. He intended to ask the court to have Ms O’Connor called to give evidence about the contents of the article.

Nevin’s legal team is also seeking depositions in the Barron report of the inquiry into the Dublin-Monaghan bombings which they say identified Mr McClean as having stayed in the Four Courts Hotel on May 10th-16th, 1974, and as being the person who made phone calls and sent telegrams to Belfast and London.

Mr Hartnett said Mr McClean was also identified by a café owner close to the hotel as a person who said in May 1974: “In 24 hours from now, three bombs will go off and you will have something else to worry about.”

The report had said Garda inquiries to trace the man in the Four Courts Hotel led nowhere until February 2000, when he was a witness in the Nevin trial. Mr McClean was then traced and interviewed informally by a garda.

Correspondence between former chief justice Mr Justice Liam Hamilton and the Justice for the Forgotten group referred to confidential information in relation to a number of suspects in the bombings and included the name Wilkinson McClean who, it appeared, was the same person as William McClean.

Patrick MacEntee SC, who compiled a 2007 report on the 1974 bombings was unable, for legal reasons, to publish findings on this issue. However, after former taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Dáil that the Government had asked agencies in Ireland and Britain to withdraw claims of privilege, information was ultimately provided to the DPP and the Garda and material relevant to whether Mr McClean had paramilitary connections was now in the possession of the parties.

Mr Hartnett said this was material relevant to Mr McClean’s background and credibility as he had denied during cross examination that he had any paramilitary links.

He said a Philip Tobin had also sworn an affidavit he was asked to provide Brian Capper, an associate of Gerry Heapes, with an alibi on the night Mr Nevin was murdered. Mr Tobin said he was unable to do so because he had already told gardaí Mr Capper was not with him that night.

Nevin also claims other documents sought may potentially undermine the credibility of another State witness at her trial, Patrick Russell.