Wednesday 22 May 2019

Byrne family can quiz DPP over reasons for murder trial collapse

Sadie Byrne, mother of David, weeps outside court
Sadie Byrne, mother of David, weeps outside court

The family of slain feud victim David Byrne will be entitled to seek reasons from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the collapse of the Regency Hotel murder trial.

Legislation introduced in 2017 allows victims of crime or their relatives to request reasons from the DPP for decisions not to prosecute cases.

While the Office of the DPP did not respond to queries on the issue, the Herald has established the same provisions also apply in cases where a charge is withdrawn during the course of a trial.

Pressure has been mounting on authorities to give a fuller explanation for the collapse of the trial of murder accused Patrick Hutch on Wednesday.

Counsel for the DPP said it was "not in a position to lead evidence on a range of evidential issues" following the death of lead investigator Detective Superintendent Colm Fox.

What these "issues" were was not fully explained, but it is believed they relate to defence concerns over the manner in which Mr Hutch was identified by gardai as a suspect from photographs taken at the scene.

Following the dramatic development, Mr Byrne's family was distraught. His mother Sadie said they had been given "no reason, no explanation" for the decision.

Under the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017, victims, their relatives or a solicitor acting on their behalf can seek reasons for non-prosecution from the DPP.

However, reasons are not given in all cases where a request is made.

For example, the DPP cannot give reasons for decisions if the information would interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation, prejudice a future court case, put the personal safety of any person at risk, or put the security of the State at risk.

The investigation into Mr Byrne's murder during the storming of a boxing weigh-in at the Regency in Dublin in February 2016 is still ongoing.

While one gunman has since died, gardai are still pursuing others who were involved.

Defence concerns over the manner in which two gardai identified Mr Hutch as the gunman photographed wearing a woman's wig were set to be a central issue in the trial, had it continued.

The two gardai said they identified Mr Hutch independently of each other, but the defence suggested they were together. The prosecution denied there had been any collusion.

Defence lawyers also sought access to emails exchanged by four gardai to see if they had been in contact with each other regarding their statements.

The trial was adjourned in February last year following the death of Det Supt Fox at Ballymun Garda Station.


No foul play was suspected and it was treated as a tragedy.

The trial was delayed while an investigation took place.

It is understood he left behind correspondence in which he said he made a "grave error of judgment", but it is unclear what he was referring to.

Earlier this week, Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said he believed some effort should be made to explain to the Byrne family and the public what information came to light after the trial was adjourned last year.

He suggested the DPP could explain matters to the family.

He also said Garda Commissioner Drew Harris could provide information to the Policing Authority.

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