Judgment held on Meehan bid to quash Guerin conviction

Brian Meehan serving life sentence for 1996 murder of journalist Veronica Guerin

Brian Meehan (47), from Crumlin, is serving a life sentence having being convicted by the Special Criminal Court in  1999 of the murder of Veronica  Guerin in June 1996. He was also jailed on drugs and firearms charges. File photograph: Ronan Quinlan/Collins

Brian Meehan (47), from Crumlin, is serving a life sentence having being convicted by the Special Criminal Court in 1999 of the murder of Veronica Guerin in June 1996. He was also jailed on drugs and firearms charges. File photograph: Ronan Quinlan/Collins

 

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on Brian Meehan’s bid to have his conviction for murdering journalist Veronica Guerin declared a miscarriage of justice.

Meehan (47), from Crumlin in Dublin, is serving a life sentence in Portlaoise prison having being convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court in July 1999 of the murder of Ms Guerin in June 1996 following a 31-day-trial. He was also jailed on drugs and firearms charges.

Meehan has applied to quash his 1999 murder conviction on the basis of alleged new or newly discovered facts.

The new evidence concerns matters which emerged in the course of the 2001 Special Criminal Court trial of John Gilligan, at the close of which Mr Gilligan was acquitted of Ms Guerin’s murder.

Counsel for Meehan, Hugh Hartnett SC, told the Court of Appeal on Thursday that the Special Criminal Court which tried his client relied entirely on the evidence of an “admitted accomplice” and protected witness, Russell Warren.

Statement supported

The court recognised that a statement of Marion Finnegan, who said she saw someone standing on the steps of Naas courthouse on the date in question, strongly supported Mr Warren’s account.

However, it emerged “out of the blue” on foot of inquiries from the Special Criminal Court at the end of Mr Gilligan’s trial, that Mr Warren had been put on an identification parade in front of Ms Finnegan shortly after the shooting and she had not identified him.

Her failure to identify him on the line-up was unknown to the defence, unknown to the court and presumably, Mr Hartnett said, unknown to the prosecution because if they had known about it they would have been professionally bound to put if before the court.

Mr Hartnett submitted that this was a new fact and “classically so”.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Paul Anthony McDermott SC, told the Court of Appeal on Friday that Meehan’s application was an “abuse of process”.

Appeal rejected

Mr McDermott said Veronica Guerin was shot 20 years ago, Meehan was convicted of her murder 16 years ago and his appeal was rejected over nine years ago.

He asked whether Irish criminal law ever had an end point, or did it expand limitlessly.

Mr McDermott asked what a person from another country would think upon seeing this case in court on this date.

Had there been a cold case review, they might wonder, had some piece of DNA evidence come to light or had someone made a deathbed confession, Mr McDermott asked, only for them to be told that it was an application under section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act based on nothing new since the criminal trial and nothing new since the appeal.

He said the interpretation Meehan was seeking to put on section 2 would ensure finality could never be brought to criminal proceedings.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve judgment.