Gerry Hutch arrest marks start of likely legal fight that could last years

Gardaí expect 58-year-old to deny involvement in Regency attack, which was part of gang feud

 Gardaí outside the Regency Hotel, Dublin, after the killing of David Byrne in 2016. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gardaí outside the Regency Hotel, Dublin, after the killing of David Byrne in 2016. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The arrest of veteran criminal Gerry Hutch in southern Spain on Thursday evening is only the beginning of what is likely to prove an adversarial and protracted legal process that could take several years.

Authorities in the State allege that the 58-year-old is guilty of involvement in the gun attack during a boxing tournament weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in Dublin in 2016, in which one man was shot dead and others were wounded.

However, Mr Hutch is certain to deny any involvement in that attack, which was part of the Kinahan-Hutch feud. Gardaí also expect him to fight efforts to extradite him back to Ireland to face the criminal charges already approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Earlier this year, the DPP directed that Mr Hutch should face charges in relation to the Regency attack, though he is not suspected of being one of the gunmen on the day. Once that direction was made, the Garda applied to the High Court for a European arrest warrant, which was granted.

That warrant was then circulated to law enforcement agencies across Europe and Mr Hutch was actively sought for arrest and extradition.

Gerry Hutch in 1999.
Gerry Hutch in 1999.

The Garda and the Spanish authorities have known for some time that Mr Hutch was living in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.

He was detained by an armed police team close to the property he is believed to have been living in of late on Thursday.

While his arrest has generated significant media coverage, Garda sources said many hurdles must be cleared before Mr Hutch can be brought before the courts in Ireland. They stressed that even if the extradition goes ahead, as many in the Garda expect, holding a trial might become complicated.

At the centre of those possible complications is the tragic death of the officer who initially led the investigation into the Regency attack, Det Supt Colm Fox.

He was found dead at Ballymun Garda station on February 10th, 2018. His official firearm was recovered at the scene and foul play was not suspected.

When he died, the trial of Mr Hutch’s nephew, Patrick Hutch (28), of Champions Avenue, Dublin 1, was under way at the Special Criminal Court. He was accused of the murder of David Byrne (34) at the Regency Hotel on February 5th, 2016.

Mr Byrne, a Kinahan cartel member, was fatally wounded when a group of gunmen – some in mock Garda Emergency Response Unit uniforms and armed with AK47s – burst into the venue and opened fire.

Patrick Hutch pleaded not guilty to both murder and the possession of three assault rifles. However, Mr Fox’s death happened during his trial and the case later collapsed, having been paused for a period.

Patrick Hutch was freed on February 20th when the DPP’s counsel told the Special Criminal Court the prosecution “was not in a position to lead evidence on a number of evidential topics” and that a “nolle prosequi” ending the case was being entered.

Mr Fox left a number of notes to colleagues and it is understood he had expressed concern about his workload and the progress of the Regency case in the period before his death.

Some Garda sources are now concerned the fallout from his death, including the contents of notes he left behind, may make it very difficult to ground further prosecutions, including that of Gerry Hutch.

However, other sources say the evidence the State alleges it has against Gerry Hutch is technical in nature, including phone records and CCTV images. Senior investigators say that material is very different to the evidence produced in court against Patrick Hutch, much of which was based on efforts – that ultimately failed – to place him at the scene just after the shooting.

Gardaí believe that while the death of Det Supt Fox presents difficulties for any prosecutions relating to the Regency attack, those problems are not so acute as to be insurmountable.