herald

Monday 16 September 2019

Compo claim for time held 'unlikely' to succeed

Patrick Hutch is a free man
Patrick Hutch is a free man

Patrick Hutch spent more than two-and-a-half years in custody before walking free following the collapse of his trial for the murder of David Byrne.

However, legal sources said there would be little basis for him to seek compensation for his time behind bars, and were he to seek it he would be highly unlikely to succeed.

The only avenue open to him would be to bring a malicious prosecution lawsuit. However, were he to do so, this would be hotly contested by the State, and there is no suggestion any investigator behaved maliciously against him.

It is also a very difficult allegation to prove.

The State would only have to show it had probable cause to believe Mr Hutch was one of those responsible for Byrne's murder at Dublin's Regency Hotel in February 2016.

"The fact the prosecution didn't succeed would not be enough of a basis for someone to make a claim," one experienced criminal barrister told the Herald.

Jeopardy

"You would basically have to show that you were completely stitched up."

Lawyers also said the collapse does not necessarily mean Mr Hutch cannot still be pursued in connection with the murder.

Yesterday's outcome was a discontinuation of his trial rather than an acquittal; and unlike many countries, Ireland no longer has a double jeopardy law prohibiting someone from being tried for the same serious offence twice.

The State can have a second bite of the cherry if new and compelling evidence emerges.

Although it does not necessarily apply to this case, Irish law allows for a retrial where it is shown the judge in the initial trial erred in law by, for example, excluding certain evidence.

Three years ago, the Supreme Court ordered the retrial of an arson case where the accused was initially acquitted.

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