Gardaí to launch large court security operation ahead of Regency Hotel shooting hearings

Gerry Hutch due in court for 2016 murder while sentencing hearing of former SF councillor to take place Monday morning

A large security operation is expected to take place around the Criminal Courts of Justice on Monday in advance of trial proceedings surrounding the 2016 Regency Hotel shooting.

The proceedings, including the trial of Gerry Hutch, are expected to be adjourned as a result of developments in the case over the last week.

Mr Hutch (58) is due to go on trial alongside several other men, including former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall, for their alleged role in the infamous gun attack during which David Byrne (34) at a boxing event.

The attack was carried out by criminals using automatic weapons while impersonating armed gardaí and was a significant escalation in the Hutch-Kinahan feud which is linked to up to 20 murders.

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Jonathan Dowdall (44) had been due to stand trial for Mr Byrne’s murder alongside Mr Hutch. However, in an unexpected move, the former councillor entered a guilty plea last week to the lesser charge of facilitating the murder. His father Patrick Dowdall (65) pleaded guilty to the same offence.

The father and son, who have an address on Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin, pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to activity intending to or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by a criminal organisation.

It marked the first convictions in the long-running investigation into the attack.

It is understood Mr Dowdall has now expressed his willingness to assist the prosecution in its case against against Mr Hutch and his alleged accomplices. Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 and Paul Murphy (59) of Cabra Road are due to stand trial alongside Mr Hutch for providing logistical support for the murder in the form of getaway vehicles.

After entering his guilty plea last Wednesday, the younger Dowdall left the courtroom via a secure exit accompanied by armed gardaí and has been kept in a secure location since.

He and his father are due to appear in the Special Criminal Court in the morning for their sentencing hearing, with the sentence itself being handed down at a later date.

Mr Hutch and his two co-accused are expected to appear for trial in the same court after lunch on Monday. Given the developments, both the prosecution and defence are expected to consent to an adjournment in the trial.

Armed officers

Due to the high-profile nature of Monday’s proceedings, gardaí have put in place an extensive security plan which will see the deployment of armed officers in and around the Criminal Courts of Justice building on Park Gate Street. The parties to the case are expected to be brought to court under armed escort.

The trial of Mr Hutch and his co-accused was expected to last three months and will involve evidence of extensive surveillance carried out by gardaí. However arguments over admissibility of Jonathan Dowdall’s testimony is expected to significantly extend the trial.

Last year, Mr Hutch was extradited from Spain, where he had spent the last five years to face charges before the non-jury court. He recently failed in his appeal to have the case heard before an jury court.

Armed gardaí have been deployed to the Cabra home of Jonathan Dowdall since his guilty plea after security fears.

It will be open the State to have Mr Dowdall placed in the rarely-used witness protection programme after he completes his sentence.

He and his father were previously convicted of abducting and torturing a man they suspected of trying to defraud them in 2015. Footage recorded on a mobile phone was shown to the court of Jonathan Dowdall wearing a balaclava and waterboarding Alexander Hurley. Patrick Dowdall was heard threatening to pull off Hurley’s fingers one-by-one with a pliers. They told Hurley that they were members of the IRA and that Jonathan Dowdall was a close friend of two prominent Sinn Féin politicians.

The victim was told he would be chopped up and taken to Northern Ireland, that he would be buried in the mountains, his head burnt at the stake and that a pliers would be used to remove knuckles from his hands.

In 2017, Johnathan Dowdall was jailed for 12 years and his father Patrick for eight for the offences. The sentences were later reduced on appeal to 10 and seven years respectively. Both men completed their sentences earlier this year and remain on bail for the Regency offence.

Jonathan Dowdall, a married father of four, ran an electrical supply company and was elected as a Dublin city councillor in 2014. He resigned from Sinn Féin a year later and vacated his council seat.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times