Defence team in Garda murder trial gets papers

 

The Special Criminal Court ruled yesterday that edited documents relating to a Belfast man accused of the capital murder of a garda 18 years ago should be disclosed to his defence team.

The State had claimed privilege over the documents, from a Department of Justice file on Mr Sean Hughes, on the grounds that Garda informants might be put at risk if identified, and because they contained privileged legal advice from the DPP.

But the court directed that edited parts of the five documents were not covered by privilege and should be disclosed.

It was the sixth day of hearings of preliminary issues in the trial. Mr Hughes, a 42-year-old father of three, of Albert Terrace, Belfast, is charged with the capital murder of Garda Patrick Reynolds in Tallaght, Co Dublin, on February 20th, 1982. The offence carries a mandatory sentence of 40 years' imprisonment without remission.

Mr Hughes is also charged with robbery in Askeaton, Co Limerick, on February 18th, 1982, and with possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life in Tallaght on February 20th, 1982.

Mr Hughes's lawyers had sought disclosure of all documents relating to him, but the DPP had claimed privilege over documents which recently emerged.

Det. Chief Supt Dermot Jennings had told the court that if documents from the Department of Justice file were disclosed he would have concerns about the safety of Garda informants. He also said he was very concerned that if the documents were disclosed it would have "grave consequences for the security of this State and the security of other states."

Yesterday Mr Justice Morris, presiding, ruled that parts of the documents which identified Garda informants were covered by privilege because the informants would be at risk if identified.

The court also ruled that sections of the documents containing legal advice were also covered by privilege. The court directed that edited versions of the documents without the parts covered by privilege should be made available to Mr Hughes's defence team. The trial proper is due to get under way today.

Yesterday's report from the Special Criminal Court of the trial of Mr Hughes may have implied that disclosure of documents to Mr Hughes's lawyers could have resulted in a threat to the safety of Garda informants. No such implication was intended.