Man who bought car used in murder of prison officer to be sentenced

Police established that Vincent Banks bought Toyota Camry car used from a man in Dublin

A Dublin man who bought the car later used in the fatal shooting of Northern Ireland prison officer David Black will be sentenced later this month at the Special Criminal Court for IRA membership.

Mr Black, a 52-year-old father-of-two, was shot dead on November 1st, 2012. He was driving to work at Maghaberry prison when he was attacked.

Vincent Banks (49), of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin 7, was convicted in July by the non-jury court of membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Óglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on December 18th, 2012.

At Monday's brief sentence hearing, Detective Inspector Anthony Lenehan, of the Special Detective Unit, summarized the facts of the case.

He told the court that after Mr Black was shot dead, the PSNI establised a forensic link between the shooting and a Toyota Camry car.

Gardaí learned that Banks had bought the car off a man in Tallaght. When he signed the log-book, Banks used his left hand and signed the name Paul McCann, with an address on Rathgar Road in Dublin.

Gardaí spoke to the landlord of the premises on Rathgar Road. He said that no resident with the name Paul McCann lived there and showed them a letter addressed to the name. The letter contained the car registration certificate for the Camry.

Banks’ right thumb print was found on the document.

Det Insp Lenehan said the car had ended up in Carrigallen, a village in county Leitrim, near the Border with Northern Ireland, and that in November Banks was seen driving a friend's car from Carrigallen to Dublin.

Gardaí searched the friend’s car, where they found Banks’ jacket and an ordnance survey map with the page displaying county Leitrim torn out.

Banks’ fingerprints were found on the map.

In the convicted man’s apartment gardai found a copy of the Evening Herald open on a story about the murder of Mr Black.

The court had also heard evidence from Chief Superintendent Gerry Russell that Banks was a member of the IRA on the date in question

Also part of the evidence were interviews conducted under Section 2 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1998. This section allows a court to draw inferences if an accused person fails or refuses to answer material questions related to suspected IRA membership.

The court heard Banks has no previous convictions of note.

Under cross-examination, Det Insp Lenehan told Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, that in April 2014 Banks was acquitted at the Special Criminal Court of withholding information in relation to the murder of Mr Black.

The detective agreed with Mr Dwyer that one of the reasons for Banks' acquittal on that occasion was that there was no evidence he knew the car was to be used in a murder.

Mr Dwyer asked to court to take into account the absence of serious criminal convictions and that his client had had to wait two years and three months, during which he was on bail, for the IRA membership trial.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Gerard Haughton, remanded Banks in custody until October 23rd, when he will be sentenced.