‘Slab’ Murphy unfairly jailed for tax evasion, appeal hears

Lawyer claims all tax due was paid by members of 67-year-old republican’s family

Alleged former IRA leader Thomas ‘Slab’  Murphy. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Alleged former IRA leader Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Prominent republican Thomas “Slab” Murphy was found guilty of evading tax his brother had already paid, his lawyers have submitted to the Court of Appeal

The 67-year-old, whose farm at Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, straddles the border with Northern Ireland, had pleaded not guilty at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to nine charges of failing to comply with tax laws in the Republic for the years 1996/97 to 2004.

The three-judge Special Criminal Court found Murphy guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on February 26 last.

Opening an appeal against conviction on Tuesday, Murphy’s barrister, John Kearney QC, told the three-judge court that “all the tax” he was found guilty of evading “was paid” by his brother Patrick Murphy.

He said it was “staggering” that the authorities came after Thomas Murphy for tax his brother had paid.

Murphy’s brother was “around every corner, he’s under every stone. He’s constantly in this case,” Mr Kearney said.

Patrick Murphy had “wrongly” applied for more income by increasing the number of herds he had so as to increase his “take on the grant”, Mr Kearney said.

The defence’s case from day one was that the farm payments were for a single farm with three herds. “Extra herds, extra money,” Mr Kearney said.

He said the Special Criminal Court’s 10-page verdict was “inadequately brief” for a 32-day trial in a “document-heavy circumstantial case”.

He said the non-jury court erred in dealing with this as a straightforward case narrowing down to a number of core issues.

Mr Kearney said the Special Criminal Court stated in its verdict that there were a number of documents an expert found to have been signed by Murphy but there was no such evidence.

For the court to short circuit that evidence into this possible finding of fact was “astounding”, counsel said.

The expert did not say he saw Tom Murphy sign the form. He did not say he saw him on the farm nor did he speak to him. Mr Kearney said this erroneous finding of fact infected the court’s verdict.

Furthermore, there was a “shed-load” of exculpatory documents but not a mention of them in the verdict. The discarding of that evidence by the court undermined the verdict, Mr Kearney submitted.

Murphy has appealed his conviction on 48 grounds in seven core areas. These are: The question of independence, the admission of a statement under provisions known as ‘section 16’, whether statutory presumptions, documentary presumptions and circumstantial presumptions - such as reasonable doubt and viable inference - were engaged by the court, specific “defects” in the direction, specific “defects” in the verdict and the alleged failure to provide adequate reasons in determining these issues.

The hearing is expected to last three days before President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards.