Men alleged to have published photos of teenage killers seek to halt Circuit Court trial

Judge ruled cases against Kyle Rooney and Jamie Shannon should not be heard at district level

Two men alleged to have published photos on Twitter of two teenage boys convicted of the murder of a teenage girl have taken a High Court challenge in an attempt to prevent them being sent for trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. File hotograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

Two men alleged to have published photos on Twitter of two teenage boys convicted of the murder of a teenage girl have taken a High Court challenge in an attempt to prevent them being sent for trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. File hotograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

Two men alleged to have published photos on Twitter of two teenage boys convicted of the murder of a teenage girl have taken a High Court challenge in an attempt to prevent them being sent for trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

In proceedings against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Kyle Rooney (25), of Rathvale Park, Ayrfield, Dublin, and Jamie Shannon (25), of Bremor, Castlegate, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, are challenging a district court judge’s refusal last December to accept jurisdiction for summary disposal of the charges in that court and instead adjourn the matter for service of a book of evidence.

The applicants are alleged, contrary to the right of accused and convicted minors to anonymity under the Children Act 2001, to have published photos on their Twitter accounts on or about June 19th, 2019 of two boys convicted of the murder of a teenage girl.

Section 51 of the 2001 Act creates a hybrid offence which can be prosecuted summarily in the district court where the maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding the euro equivalent of ir£1,500.

When the men’s cases were among 10 similar cases which came before the court on October 28th, 2020, Judge Brian O’Shea was informed the DPP had directed summary disposal of the charges.

After the prosecution summarised the nature of the alleged offences, Judge O’Shea accepted summary jurisdiction in respect of all 10 cases and adjourned them to December 2nd last.

When the cases returned before the district court that day, the presiding judge, Judge John Hughes sought and heard an outline of the alleged facts in each case.

Not minor

He decided the alleged offences were not minor and not fit for summary trial in the district court. The proceedings have since been adjourned to March for the DPP to indicate consent to the defendants being sent forward for trial to the Circuit Court where jail terms of up to three years and/or a fine of up to the euro equivalent of ir£10,000 can be imposed.

On Monday, Conor Devally SC, for Mr Rooney and Mr Shannon, secured leave from Mr Justice Garrett Simons to bring judicial review proceedings aimed at overturning the December 2nd order.

It is alleged the refusal of summary jurisdiction concerning both prosecutions, in circumstances where the district court earlier accepted jurisdiction, was “fundamentally unfair”, in excess of jurisdiction, breached fair procedures and natural justice, and was not in accordance with law.

Change of position

Counsel argued, while a change of position by a district court judge concerning jurisdiction is permitted, Judge Hughes’ decision was made in excess of jurisdiction because no new information indicating a greater level of seriousness or moral culpability which was different to the information before Judge O’Shea had been provided.

The grounds of challenge also include claims Judge Hughes erred in failing to deal with each prosecution on its own merits and adopting what counsel alleged was a “blanket policy” in not distinguishing between any of the cases before him in terms of the specific alleged facts, level of severity and/or moral culpability.

Mr Justice Simons said he was satisfied the applicants had made an arguable case for judicial review. He also granted a stay on the district court order pending the outcome of the judicial review.