Court of Appeal dismisses ‘misconceived’ CCTV arguments

Justice John Edwards says the court does not believe any of Philip Dunbar’s rights were breached by using CCTV footage in his murder trial

The Court of Appeal has delivered a landmark ruling that CCTV footage can be used as evidence in trials, stating that arguments against its use are misconceived, lacking in reality and should not be used to take up “valuable court time”.

Mr Justice John Edwards issued the ruling in the case of Philip Dunbar, who murdered a homeless man with a disability by stabbing him 183 times and then argued at trial and in the Court of Appeal that the use of CCTV was a breach of his rights under the Constitution and EU rights charters.

Dozens of other trials have heard similar arguments and Mr Justice John Edwards said on Tuesday that where such evidence exists, it would be a dereliction of duty if gardaí did not access and use it to investigate crime and to secure convictions.

During the trial of Jozef Puska, who made similar arguments after he murdered 23-year-old schoolteacher Ashling Murphy, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said he was “fatigued” by the “familiar suite of arguments” made by lawyers regarding the use of CCTV. He said a decision from the Court of Appeal was “long overdue” and pointed out that arguments claiming that CCTV footage should be inadmissible had never succeeded in the Irish courts.


Delivering Tuesday’s judgment, Mr Justice Edwards said some of the arguments in the Dunbar trial and appeal were “lacking in reality” and he noted that similar arguments had been made in other cases “sometimes at great length”.

In respect of arguments made under data protection laws, the judge said the processing of data such as CCTV footage was lawful where it was necessary and proportionate for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences.

While data protection laws provide restrictions on the use of a person’s personal data, including footage that might show their movements, that right was “subject to necessary and proportionate restrictions for the purpose of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences”, the judge said.

In the Dunbar case, CCTV footage was obtained from private homes, local businesses and a Dublin bus. The purpose of having CCTV cameras, the judge said, was to protect premises, deter unauthorised entry, discourage antisocial and criminal behaviour, and to assist in apprehending anyone who did engage in such activities.

The footage obtained was from public places including footpaths, roads, a public park, a bus and the Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght. “It does not seem realistic to us to suggest that someone walking or visiting such an area would have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Mr Justice Edwards said.

While in some cases irrelevant CCTV footage was harvested by gardaí, Mr Justice Edwards said this became apparent only with the benefit of hindsight. “At an early stage of an investigation, gardaí may well be acting under pressure, including time constraints. A significant margin of appreciation must be afforded to gardaí,” he said.

Mr Justice Edwards said the court did not believe any of Dunbar’s rights were breached, whether under the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights or the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. He said the challenge to the admissibility of the CCTV evidence was not made out and was “quite simply, misconceived”.

The CCTV evidence was highly relevant, he said, and in any particular case such evidence could be used to advance an investigation, identify a suspect and provide relevant evidence at trial. In another case, he said, it might exonerate a suspect.

He said the court had no hesitation in dismissing the grounds of appeal, adding: “Valuable court time should not be taken up with such unmeritorious arguments.”

Dunbar, last of Glenshane Drive, Tallaght, Dublin 24, was convicted by a jury of murdering Adam “Floater” Muldoon (23) at Butler Park, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin 24 on June 22nd or 23rd, 2018. Dunbar, who was 17 at the time, stabbed Mr Muldoon 183 times in an unprovoked attack.

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