‘Slab’ Murphy trial: Court treated republican as a ‘cattle dealer’

Analysis: Defendant contested almost every piece of evidence put forward by State

Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy  of Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Special Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins Courts

Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy of Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Special Criminal Court. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A number of mitigating factors were taken into account when the Special Criminal Court sentenced Thomas “Slab” Murphy to 18 months in prison. Among them were his age, the fact he had no previous convictions, the length of time he had been on bail and the amount of unpaid tax at issue in his case.

The trial heard evidence of a 2006 raid by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) on the Murphy family farm in Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth. During this raid, about €1 million in cash as well as cash in sterling and uncashed cheques were found in black plastic bags hidden in a hay shed. Journals containing meticulous records of transactions involving Murphy were also found.

The coded records covered not just transactions involving farming and illegal diesel smuggling, but also payments to unknown parties going back to the 1980s.

Farming income

This income was about €15,000 for each year concerned, and the total tax bill arising from the farming income is €189,964.66.

In delivering the judgment, Mr Justice Paul Butler said he and his colleagues were aware of the publicity surrounding the prosecution, but the court had dealt with him as “a farmer and cattle dealer”.

Murphy was not punished for the way he defended himself, but there is no doubting its odd nature. His High Court and Supreme Court appeals against the decision to try him in the juryless Special Criminal Court took years, and during his 32-day trial, he contested almost every piece of evidence produced by the State.

‘False picture’

A lifelong republican, Murphy appears to hold a position that he should not, or does not, recognise the agents of the State or its institutions.

But he did draw down farming grants and tried to use the courts to prevent his being tried in a juryless court.

In a statement through his solicitors, Murphy said he would appeal against his conviction. He also said it had been reported two witnesses who had given statements to the Garda “felt unable” to give evidence in court. In fact, they did, he said.

This is true, but in three instances witnesses gave evidence that differed materially from the statement given to the Garda. The differences between two accounts were aired in court following applications from prosecution counsel Paul Burns SC for permission to do so. His third application was denied.

Murphy also said he had no property and no savings. It is certainly worth speculating the activities he is believed to have been involved with, and any assets accumulated, were not for his personal benefit.

Murphy will serve his time in Portlaoise Prison, alongside dissident republicans and gangland criminals. He will probably spend about a year in jail.

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