Court rules for first time on new gangland laws

 

THE SPECIAL Criminal Court has ruled for the first time on the use of new laws which were brought in last year to tackle gangland crime.

The court made a ruling yesterday on a legal issue which arose during the trial of a Belfast man for the murder of a taxi driver in Belfast last year.

Gerard Mackin was questioned by members of the Special Detective Unit after his arrest in Dublin last year under the Criminal Justice Act of 2007.

This allows courts to draw inferences from the failure of suspects to answer questions in relation to their presence at a place related to a particular offence.

The new Act was brought in last year to give gardaí extra powers to deal with serious crime.

The court heard that Mr Mackin replied "no comment" when questioned about his presence at the location where taxi driver Edward Burns was shot dead.

Mr Mackin's counsel, Paul McDermott SC, submitted that the court could not draw inferences from Mr Mackin's refusal to answer questions because gardaí had not complied with the provisions of the 2007 Act by not briefing his solicitor on the questions they were about to put to him.

However, Mr Justice Paul Butler said Mr Mackin was given a full explanation of the legislation by his solicitor and that the relevant sections were explained to him in ordinary language by gardaí.

The judge also said the court was merely holding that they were entitled to draw inferences from Mr Mackin's refusal to answer questions, but whether they drew those inferences depended on the rest of the evidence.

The court has heard that Mr Burns (36), Prospect Park, Belfast, a father of five, died from a single shot fired at close range.

Mr Mackin has denied the his murder at Bog Meadow, Falls Road, Belfast, on March 12th last year and the attempted murder of Damien O'Neill (25), possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and causing serious harm to Mr O'Neill on the same date.

Mr Mackin (26), from Whiterock, Belfast, with an address at Raheen Close, Tallaght, Dublin, has opted for trial in the Republic under the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act of 1976, which allows suspects to be tried in the Republic for alleged offences in Britain or Northern Ireland.

The court last month heard evidence at Belfast Crown Court from a number of witnesses who were reluctant to travel to Dublin, including the main prosecution witness, Mr O'Neill. Mr O'Neill identified Mr Mackin as the man who shot Mr Burns and then shot him.