Court not allowed to grant access to forensic evidence, court rules

High Court did not have jurisdiction to grant orders, but court of appeal did, says judge

Mr Justice Paul McDermott ruled that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to grant orders permitting experts for convicted persons to access forensic material

Mr Justice Paul McDermott ruled that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to grant orders permitting experts for convicted persons to access forensic material

 

The High Court has clarified the law concerning the entitlement of convicted persons to access forensic material gathered during the course of criminal investigations as part of any new bid to challenge their convictions.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott ruled that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to grant orders permitting experts on behalf of John Gerard McDonagh, who is serving sentences for the murder and rape of teenager Siobhán Hynes almost 16 years ago, to access forensic evidence gathered during the investigation into the schoolgirl’s death.

The Garda Commissioner and DPP could grant such access if they thought it appropriate and McDonagh was also entitled to seek such orders from the Court of Appeal, which had the necessary jurisdiction to make them, he ruled.

DNA analysis

The Garda Commissioner had refused to provide the forensic material without a court order.

McDonagh was convicted in 2001 of the rape and murder of Ms Hynes (17), from Lettermore, Connemara, in the early hours of December 6th, 1998, and was sentenced to life for murder and 10 years for rape.

He pleaded not guilty and has always maintained his innocence. The Irish Innocence Project has had McDonagh’s case examined by scientists in the US. 

In judicial review proceedings against the Garda Commissioner and the State, McDonagh argued that the Garda refusal to permit his experts to access the forensic material was contrary to natural justice and fair procedures and breached his rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights, including of access to the courts.

The claims were denied.

Mr Justice McDermott said the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to grant the orders sought but the Court of Appeal had the necessary jurisdiction to decide applications of this nature.