Members of the public were permitted to re-enter the Special Criminal Court yesterday afternoon after a surveillance Garda witness was escorted from the building through the custody area.
Officers from the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) had been giving evidence in the trial of three men charged with murdering dissident republican Peter Butterly.
However, the public had been excluded from court to protect the officer’s physical characteristics from exposure and their evidence cannot be published to protect the NSU’s methodology.
Yesterday, National Surveillance Unit officer, Garda D, was escorted from the building through the custody area of the courtroom because, lawyers for the State have said, they cannot walk “out into the public as normal”.
Presiding judge Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy permitted the public to re-enter the courtroom to hear evidence from members of the Emergency Response Unit. However, the evidence of these armed gardaí may not yet be admissible. The court has heard that legality of arrest is a key issue in the trial.
Dean Evans (24), of Grange Park Rise, Raheny; Edward McGrath (33), of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght; and Sharif Kelly (44), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan, have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Peter Butterly (35) who was shot dead in the car park of the Huntsman Inn, at Gormanston, Co Meath, on March 6th, 2013.
Mr Evans and Mr McGrath have also pleaded not guilty to firearm offences at the same address, on the same date. A fourth man, David Cullen (30), with a last address in Balbriggan, was allegedly "part of the murder plan himself" but turned State's witness against his former co-accused earlier this year.
The court has heard Mr Butterly was “lured” to the car park of the Huntsman Inn by another man not before the court at approximately 2pm on March 6th, 2013. A Toyota Corolla was seen entering the car park and, within minutes, shots were discharged at Mr Butterly’s vehicle and further shots discharged when he exited his car and attempted to flee.
Prosecuting counsel, Úna Ní Raifeartaigh SC, has said Mr Butterly was found by a lone garda collapsed in a corner of the car park and pronounced dead a short time later.
On an earlier date, the court heard that gardaí sought judicial approval to use a tracking device on the Toyota Corolla.
The case continues today in the non-jury court before Ms Justice Murphy, Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan and Judge Cormac Dunne.