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Sunday 4 December 2016

Man who murdered journalist makes bid to quash conviction

A man jailed for the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin will seek to have his conviction declared a miscarriage of justice in November.

Brian Meehan (47), from Crumlin in Dublin, is serving a life sentence in Portlaoise prison having being convicted in July 1999 of the murder of Ms Guerin in June 1996 following a 31-day trial before the non-jury Special Criminal Court. He was also jailed on drugs and firearms charges.

Meehan has applied to quash his 1999 murder conviction on the basis of new evidence.

The new evidence concerns matters which emerged in the course of the 2001 Special Criminal Court trial of John Gilligan.

During list management procedures in the Court of Appeal yesterday, Mr Justice George Birmingham fixed November 19 and 20 for the hearing of Meehan's application.

In June, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Anthony McDermott told the court that his side needed another two weeks to prepare submissions.

Mr McDermott said it had been "two decades since Veronica Guerin was murdered" and there was a lot of material to go through.

There was a "debate" between the parties as to the meaning of new evidence and whether one could rely on transcripts but the State will prepare a full set of submissions in any event, Mr McDermott had said.

The Special Criminal Court found that Meehan drove a motorbike up to the side of Ms Guerin's car on the Naas road and a pillion passenger on the bike fired a number of shots at the Sunday Independent journalist, resulting in her death.

He contends that "new facts" emanating from material disclosed for the 2001 trial of John Gilligan show Meehan's conviction was a miscarriage.

Gilligan was cleared of the murder of Veronica Guerin but was convicted of the importation and possession of cannabis resin.

In February the State was told to prepare a "substantive response" to Meehan's submissions.

Tom O'Connell SC, for the DPP, told the Court of Appeal on that occasion that he had only received a transcript of the Meehan trial the previous Friday.

Mr O'Connell had said there was "endless cross reference to the case of John Gilligan" in Meehan's submissions and although he did not concede the relevance of the Gilligan trial to Meehan's application, counsel said he needed a transcript of that case also.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Sean Ryan said a fair amount of Mr Meehan's case was that a Mr Warren is allegedly "not to be trusted" because another court had described him in trenchant terms.

facts

Mr O'Connell said the DPP had brought a motion to have Meehan's application dismissed on the basis that the alleged newly discovered facts were all known before the original appeal.

The DPP's motion had been refused by the Court of Criminal Appeal last year. In its ruling, however, the court did not preclude the State from running the same points again in the hearing.

Mr Justice Ryan said the Director was still entitled to ask 'should this case go ahead at all' but it was for the Court of Appeal to determine.

He said the State had to "make a substantive response" and it was very important the submissions dealt with the whole case.

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