Regency Hotel trial collapse will be fully examined, Harris says

Commissioner also argues having more gardaí around world will improve policing

Commissioner Drew Harris suggested having personnel based overseas permanently would help the Garda in Ireland. Photograph: Collins Courts

Commissioner Drew Harris suggested having personnel based overseas permanently would help the Garda in Ireland. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Lingering questions about why the trial of Patrick Hutch for the murder of David Byrne collapsed will be answered, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.

However, Mr Harris said it would then be a decision for the Garda oversight agencies as to whether the findings of investigations into the trial collapsing were released publicly.

“This matter is under examination,” Mr Harris said of the collapse of the trial last week. He added that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission had opened a public interest investigation into the controversy.

He said the Garda was also conducting a review on behalf of Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and when that is completed it would draw up a report for the Minister and also report back to the Policing Authority.

“There will be answers in respect of this but the process has to be followed,” Mr Harris told the media at the conclusion of a public meeting of the authority on Thursday.

Mr Hutch (26), of Champion’s Avenue, Dublin 1, walked free from the Special Criminal Court when the DPP effectively withdrew the charges. Byrne (32), from Crumlin, was shot dead in the Regency Hotel three years ago when a gang of five armed men burst into a boxing tournament weigh-in.

They were looking for gang leader Daniel Kinahan so they could shoot him because they blamed him for the murder in Spain six months earlier of Dublin criminal Gary Hutch.

Dressed as woman

The DPP had contended that a man dressed as a woman photographed by the media running from the hotel with a gun in his hand was Patrick Hutch. However, he denied this.

During the trial, questions were raised about the process undertaken to identify the man dressed as a woman in the photographs. The Garda officer leading the case, Det Supt Colm Fox, took his own life, which meant he could not be questioned about notes of his that appeared to relate to misgivings he had about the investigation.

Mr Harris had earlier told the authority that the Garda wanted to post more of its members overseas. These extra personnel would add to the 15 Garda members already posted abroad, working with the UN and also with agencies such as Interpol and Europol.

“Given the threat from terrorism, from organised crime and increasingly from cybercrime we really need to expand our presence overseas,” he said.

“The tried and trusted way of doing that is the liaison officer process. We want to expand into the Americas and the Far East; four or five more of our members being abroad, maybe more.”

Border patrol

When asked about Garda plans for Brexit, Mr Harris said that over the past 1½ years Garda headquarters had been “steadily increasing” the number of personnel based near the Border and would continue to do so.

The Armed Support Units, roads policing and the number of uniform Garda members on patrol had all been increased in the division.

“We think that’s commensurate with the work that we see is there; even aside from what’s happening with Brexit and just dealing with the threats from organised crime, national security threats and also then local concerns around anti-social behaviour and poor driving.”

Mr Harris declined to put a specific number on the additional Garda members being deployed to the region. He said media reports that referred to specific numbers had been based on “speculation”.