Gardai used an "extremely impressive" new method when tasked with identifying three of the men accused of abducting and assaulting businessman Kevin Lunney, a defence lawyer has told the Special Criminal Court.
Defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC said the new method, whereby gardai were separated and shown CCTV footage and stills without any indication of what was being investigated, eliminates the possibility that identification evidence will be contaminated or that gardai will be influenced by their colleagues.
Inspector Stephen Mullen told Mr O'Higgins that he developed the new process. He said a number of gardai, who might have knowledge of the people in the footage, were selected but were not told what they were viewing or the context for it. They were put in a "controlled environment", he said, with each garda viewing the footage independently. Everything was recorded on video and each member was asked to make a statement at the earliest practicable time.
He agreed with Mr O'Higgins that he developed the new procedure after previous cases showed that there was room for improvement.
Having heard evidence from several gardai, Mr O'Higgins and lawyers for the other accused withdrew their objections to the admissibility of identification evidence.
A 40-year-old man known as YZ, Alan O’Brien (40), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, Darren Redmond (27), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3 and Luke O’Reilly (67), with an address at Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan have all pleaded not (NOT) guilty to false imprisonment and intentionally causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019.
Mr Lunney, a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings, has told the court that he was bundled into the boot of a car near his home and driven to a container where he was threatened and told to resign as a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings. His abductors cut him with a Stanley knife, stripped him to his boxer shorts, doused him in bleach, broke his leg with two blows of a wooden bat, beat him on the ground, cut his face and scored the letters QIH into his chest. They left him bloodied, beaten and shivering on a country road at Drumcoghill in Co Cavan where he was discovered by a man driving a tractor.
Garda Eric Keogh of Store Street Garda Station told Sean Guerin SC for the prosecution that he is involved in "Small Area Policing", where certain gardai are assigned small neighbourhoods where they must have a high visibility, get to know the locals and "be aware of everything that goes on."
He was assigned an area of Dublin 3 where he would regularly call into local shops and businesses and meet people face to face. On November 5, 2019 he received an email from a detective inspector asking him to come to Store Street Garda Station to look at CCTV. He said he was not told what was being investigated or who might be identified in the footage.
He identified the accused man YZ at an apartment block in Dublin 3, at an Applegreen at Rahardrum, Virginia, Co Cavan and at a Spar Shop on Portland Row on various dates including the day Mr Lunney was abducted and the previous day.
Under cross examination Garda Keogh said it was a "coincidence" that he inquired about YZ on the garda Pulse system earlier in the afternoon when he was asked to look at CCTV footage and about Alan O'Brien two days earlier. He said he might have been preparing for a meeting with his chief superintendent at which he would be expected to know everything that was happening in his area. He said he had no idea YZ and Alan O'Brien were, at that time, persons of interest in the investigation of the offences against Mr Lunney.
Garda Conor Ward had a community policing role in the same area in 2019 and got to know the locals through attending meetings, festivals and taking part in a five-a-side league. On November 5, 2019 he was asked to go to Store Street station where he viewed the same CCTV footage. He identified YZ and Alan O'Brien, who he also knew as Alan 'Pegger' Rooney, at the Dublin 3 Apartments and at Rahardrum. He identified Darren Redmond with YZ at the apartment block in footage from the day Mr Lunney was abducted.
Sgt Niall Leech of Clones Garda Station told Mr Guerin that he took part in searches of properties belonging to Luke O'Reilly. At Mr O'Reilly's home, he said, he found a bottle of bleach at the top of a wheelie bin that was against a gable wall. He found another bottle inside one of the bins.
On September 23, 2019 he searched a yard at Drumbrade belonging to Mr O'Reilly where he saw a blue horse box among other trailers. He noted that one white trailer differed from the other units in that it had vegetation growing underneath. The others, he said, had no growth underneath because the area had no access to light. He formed the opinion that the white trailer had recently been placed there. When the trailer was removed by a crane, Sgt Leech noticed a fresh tyre mark underneath.
The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh.
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