State rejects claims by Hutch and Dowdall over Special Criminal Court

Lawyers for State contend that it is entitled to establish special courts where necessary

Gerry Hutch (58), who was extradited from Spain, and former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall (44), of Navan Road, Dublin, are both charged with the murder of David Byrne (33) at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin, on February 5th, 2016. File photograph: Reuters

Gerry Hutch (58), who was extradited from Spain, and former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall (44), of Navan Road, Dublin, are both charged with the murder of David Byrne (33) at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin, on February 5th, 2016. File photograph: Reuters

 

The State has rejected claims in cases brought by two men, including Gerry “The Monk” Hutch, that they should not be tried in the non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC) on charges of murder arising out of the Regency Hotel attack in 2016.

Hutch (58), who was extradited from Spain, and former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall (44), of Navan Road, Dublin, are both charged with the murder of David Byrne (33) at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin, on February 5th, 2016.

They have brought judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the Minister for Justice, Dáil Éireann, Ireland and the Attorney General, while Seanad Éireann is also a respondent in the Hutch case.

The respondents deny their claims and say, among other things, there is a failure by the men to adequately, or at all, to particularise the legal basis for the reliefs they seek.

On the second day of the hearing of their separate challenges to the law under which they are to be tried before the SCC, Remy Farrell SC for the State executive respondents, rejected arguments by the men’s lawyers that their rights were being violated because the SCC is only meant to be a temporary measure under the Offences Against the State Act 1939, providing for its establishment.

Nearly 50 years after the current SCC was installed, it has effectively become a permanent fixture and the 1939 Act does not provide for that, the men’s lawyers have argued. If the State wants a permanent court, it should introduce legislation permitting it to establish one, they say.

In his submissions on Wednesday on behalf of Gerry Hutch, Brendan Grehan SC said the wording of the 1939 Act meant there was a temporal limit on the SCC and it (the Act) was not designed for the setting up of a permanent court.

In his submissions for the State, Mr Farrell said, among other things, the Oireachtas can, under Article 38 5.1 (trial of offences), establish special courts in circumstances where the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice.

The State was acting on the basis of constitutionality and it was not a question of whether it was of a temporary or permanent nature, counsel said.

The case continues before Mr Justice Anthony Barr.