DPP cannot challenge acquittal of man over burglaries, court rules

High Court points to DPP’s failure to act expeditiously as case is dismissed

Mr Justice Garrett Simons dismissed an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions for an extension of time to challenge what the DPP said was “a patent and fundamental error” of Wexford Circuit Court in 2019 in acquitting Dean O’Brien.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons dismissed an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions for an extension of time to challenge what the DPP said was “a patent and fundamental error” of Wexford Circuit Court in 2019 in acquitting Dean O’Brien.

 

The DPP’s failure to act expeditiously meant she could not challenge the acquittal of a man on charges of six holiday home burglaries which he had previously admitted, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons dismissed an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions for an extension of time to challenge what the DPP said was “a patent and fundamental error” of Wexford Circuit Court in 2019 in acquitting Dean O’Brien (24) of the offences.

In September 2017, in the District Court, O’Brien of Ardmore Court, Courtown, Co Wexford, had admitted six burglaries from the homes in a holiday park in Courtown in 2015 when thousands of euro worth of property was taken.

Gorey car chase

He also admitted a number of driving offences including dangerous driving during a high-speed chase around Gorey on January 19th, 2017. The court heard he rammed a Garda car several times and the incident ended when he hit a private car before fleeing on foot.

He received a total sentence of 16 months and an eight-year driving ban.

In November 2019, he appealed to the Circuit Court on grounds of severity of sentence only. However, the charges were dismissed in their entirety when the circuit judge allowed the appeals on both the burglaries and driving offences.

The DPP brought a High Court challenge over the Circuit Court decision. As that challenge had been taken two weeks outside the three-month legal time limit, the DPP asked Mr Justice Simons on Wednesday to extend the time for doing so.

Fundamental error

Conor McKenna, for the DPP, said this was such a fundamental error on the part of the Circuit Court it should not be allowed to stand. The appeal was only over severity and there were no grounds for acquitting the defendant, he said.

James Dwyer SC, for Mr O’Brien, who is in custody on another matter, opposed the extension saying there was no basis for doing so.

Mr Justice Simons refused the extension saying, if the DPP regarded the Circuit Court judge as having made such a fundamental error, and if, as was asserted, there was a public interest in ensuring the offences were prosecuted fully, it behoved the DPP to proceed with expedition.

The reasons given for the delay, including time spent getting the audio recording of the Circuit Court proceedings, were not sufficient grounds, he said.

It was a simple legal issue which was well within the competence of the DPP, he said.

He dismissed the case.