Accused in criminal trial granted permission to attend trial remotely

Court hears Ray Kennedy is in severe lockdown with his seriously ill daughter

Ray Kennedy is charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly.

Ray Kennedy is charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly.

 

An accused in a criminal trial has been granted permission to attend his trial remotely, in what is believed to be a first for the Irish courts.

Ray Kennedy, who is charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly, will be allowed to attend his Special Criminal Court trial remotely via video-link for its duration, after the court found the accused had exceptional family circumstances.

His daughter is seriously ill and Covid-19 susceptible.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the non-jury court, said it was an “unusual application but it comes out of the unusual times we live in”.

Mr Butterly, a 35-year-old father of two, was shot dead shortly after 2pm in the car park of the Huntsman Inn at Gormanston, Co Meath on March 6th, 2013. He died from gunshot wounds to his neck and back.

Mr Kennedy (40), with an address at Whitestown Drive, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, is accused of carrying out an act intending to pervert the course of justice, by destroying a SIM card on March 6th, 2013.

At a brief hearing on Wednesday morning, Mr Justice Hunt said that trials involving single defendants can resume in the Special Criminal Court from March 1 and so Mr Kennedy’s case “fitted the bill”.

Defence counsel Imelda Kelly BL, for Mr Kennedy, informed the court that her client was the father of a young daughter, who was born with “a serious congenital condition”.

Ms Kelly said the child requires regular attendance at Temple Street Children’s Hospital and she is very susceptible to Covid-19.

“The family unit is living in a very secure lock-down and have effectively been in lock-down since the birth of the child,” she added.

She asked the three-judge court if Mr Kennedy could attend his trial remotely via video-link instead of physically presenting himself in the Special Criminal Court.

Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, prosecuting, said whilst there was no specific provision in law for such an application, the State had no “substantive objection” to it.

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Flann Brennan, said the three-judge panel would accede to the application, which had “exceptional circumstances”.

He said the risk to Mr Kennedy’s child seemed to be “heightened” by her father “travelling to and from court” and being exposed to the movements of the public.

Furthermore, Ms Kelly applied to the three-judge court for Mr Justice Hunt to recuse himself from Mr Kennedy’s trial next week.

“The defence position is that you have withdrawn from other cases, which have arisen out of the death of Mr Butterly.”

In reply, Mr Justice Hunt said he had not withdrawn in the past and insisted he was not withdrawing from Mr Kennedy’s case, which will begin on Monday. “Why would I not sit in this case? I know nothing of Mr Kennedy.”

Mr Kennedy’s trial will commence at the non-jury court on Monday. It is expected to last between four and five weeks.