A man who was arrested as a teenager for running an alleged explosives and firearm collection errand for a man since convicted over the murder of Gareth Hutch, wants the High Court to dismiss his prosecution due to a delay.
He says he was arrested when aged 16 for the offences and as a result of the delay in charging him, will lose the anonymity he would have been entitled to as a child defendant.
It is claimed that he faces a mandatory minimum five year sentence if convicted of the offences as an adult when, in contrast, a child could be sent to a detention school or even dealt with by community order for such offences.
The applicant was arrested in February 2016 on the M7 motorway at Mountrath, Portlaoise, while travelling as a passenger in a car allegedly found to have a glock firearm, two explosive devices and an unlicensed air pistol.
As a result of evidence gathered by gardaí in the month after his arrest, it is claimed the boy had attended the "errand" meeting with Jonathan Keogh (33), who last November was one of three people jailed for life for murdering Mr Hutch outside a north inner city Dublin flat complex on May 24th, 2016.
The deceased was a nephew of Gerry ‘the Monk’ Hutch, whose criminal gang is involved in a feud with drug dealer Christy Kinahan’s operation.
It is claimed that shortly before his arrest, the 16-year-old was brought to a north Dublin service station to meet Keogh, who told him to go to Limerick, pick up a grenade and bring it back to Dublin. It is alleged that Keogh offered to knock €10,000 off a debt owed by the teenager if he did the job.
Gardaí stopped the car and found the explosives and firearm, it is alleged. The boy and the driver were charged last September.
His lawyers last November brought a High Court challenge against the Garda Commissioner and DPP seeking to prohibit his trial on grounds of delay in bringing the prosecution. The defendants opposed the application.
On Tuesday, in arguments before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, Vincent Heneghan SC, for the young man, said in March 2016, a month after his client was arrested, gardaí had all the necessary evidence to charge him. That included CCTV evidence of the boy meeting Keogh in the service station, counsel said.
Instead, gardaí waited until Keogh, who fled soon after the murder of Mr Hutch, was extradited back from the UK, counsel said.
Mr Heneghan said Keogh was a “red herring” in relation to dealing expeditiously with the case against his client. There was no good reason for the delay in charging and having him dealt with before he turned 18, he submitted.
Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for the defendants, said there was never any possibility of the applicant’s case being dealt with in the 1¼ years between when he was arrested and when he turned 18 in June 2017 .
Even if he had been charged before that, he would still be 18 by the time his case came to trial and, if convicted, at his sentencing hearing, counsel said.
Gardaí were entitled to properly investigate all lines of inquiry in relation to these offences, including waiting for Keogh to give his version of the service station meeting when he was brought back from abroad.
He said that had gardaí submitted a partial file to the DPP, it was likely it would have been returned because all lines of inquiry had not been followed. There was no blameworthy delay in this case and it was not one of those exceptional cases in which the court should exercise its discretion to prohibit the trial.
Mr Justice Noonan reserved his decision.