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Saturday 1 October 2016

Wife-killer O'Reilly granted legal aid to pursue murder appeal

Murderer Joe O'Reilly Photo: Garrett White / Collins
Murderer Joe O'Reilly Photo: Garrett White / Collins

Joe O'Reilly has been granted legal aid to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court one year after his miscarriage of justice bid was dismissed as an "abuse of process".

In July 2007, O'Reilly was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife at their home in the Naul, Co Dublin, on October 4, 2004.

The badly beaten body of Rachel O'Reilly (right) was found in the bedroom of her home by her mother and, before he was charged, Joe had appeared as a guest on the topic of her death on The Late Late Show.

In 2009, O'Reilly lost an appeal against his conviction and last May an application to have his conviction declared a miscarriage of justice was dismissed.

Counsel for O'Reilly, Ronan Munro BL, sought a legal aid certificate in the Court of Appeal yesterday for O'Reilly to pursue an application to the Supreme Court under its new jurisdiction.

It was not certain that there was an automatic right of appeal to the Supreme Court, as there had been before the Court of Appeal was established, the court heard previously.

Sentence

In light of developments in a separate case, Mr Justice Birmingham said the Supreme Court seemed to take the view that applications for legal aid should be made to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Munro told the judge that O'Reilly was serving a life sentence. As such, there was unlikely to be an issue as to his means.

If the Supreme Court was satisfied that legal aid applications should be dealt with in the Court of Appeal "that's good enough for me", said Mr Justice Birmingham - who had indicated earlier that three judges would be required to deal with the matter.

O'Reilly was not in court for the procedural matter.

He has been on legal aid with a solicitor and two counsel at every stage of the proceedings, in other words, at trial, for his appeal and in the Court of Appeal for his miscarriage of justice application.

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal last year, Mr Justice Birmingham said it was an "unacceptable strategy" to raise the arguments O'Reilly had raised at this point.

O'Reilly's application to have his conviction declared a miscarriage of justice was based on events that occurred on the third day of his Central Criminal Court trial, when a portion of the book of evidence was found in the jury room, the judge said.

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