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Thursday 14 December 2017

Ex-Sinn Fein councillor on prison 'IRA wing' after being jailed for 12 years for torture

Jonathan Dowdall
Jonathan Dowdall

A former Sinn Fein councillor who tortured a man in his garage and threatened to chop him up and feed him to dogs has been jailed for 12 years.

Jonathan Dowdall (40), who waterboarded his victim and claimed he was in the IRA during a two-hour interrogation, had the sentence handed down at the Special Criminal Court.

Dowdall had denied that he claimed he was "in the IRA" during the terrifying incident, but a judge ruled against him.

However, the Herald can now exclusively reveal that Dowdall and his father have been locked up on the E1 dissident republican wing of Portlaoise Prison.

Only criminals considered to be part of the dissident republican movement are housed on this landing.

Patrick Dowdall (60), who threatened to chop off Alexander Hurley's fingers with pliers as he was tortured, was jailed for eight years.

Jonathan Dowdall was also given a concurrent four years and his father a concurrent three years in prison for threatening to kill Mr Hurley.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said: "These are most serious offences.

"The injured party was subjected to a horrendous and terrifying ordeal. He endured what can only be described as physical and mental torture at the hands of the Dowdalls."

The father and son, both of Navan Road, Dublin 7, had pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning and threatening to kill Mr Hurley at their home on January 15, 2015.

Their sentencing had been delayed after they contested some points of evidence at the last minute.

Garda remove a BMW car and motorcycle from the home of Jonathan Dowdall on the Navan Road.
Garda remove a BMW car and motorcycle from the home of Jonathan Dowdall on the Navan Road.

That dispute was resolved in a hearing yesterday at which the accused and victim gave evidence and which resulted in the court rejecting most of the Dowdalls' assertions - including their denials that the IRA was mentioned.

Previously, the court heard that Jonathan Dowdall, a father-of-four with a successful electrical company, put a motorbike up for sale and was contacted by Mr Hurley.

After an initial meeting, Dowdall, who was a Dublin city councillor and former Sinn Fein member at the time, believed he was being duped by Mr Hurley when he researched him on the internet and came across scamming allegations.

Dowdall invited Mr Hurley to dinner, but instead he and his father tied him with cable ties to a swivel chair in the garage and tried to force a confession out of him.

Mr Hurley, who has prior fraud convictions, pleaded for his life as Jonathan Dowdall covered his face with a teacloth and doused his head with water.

Burned

Mr Hurley heard someone say they would "feed him to dogs, chop him up, place him in cellophane bags and store him in the boot of a BMW" if he did not tell the truth, and that his head would be burned at the stake.

"[Jonathan Dowdall] told me I hadn't got a clue who he is and asked me 'do you know who I am?' I said I didn't. He said he was part of Sinn Fein and the IRA," Mr Hurley said.

The court was shown "grim and harrowing" footage of some of Mr Hurley's interrogation, in which Dowdall, wearing a balaclava, shaved his head and shouted questions at him.

Mr Hurley said a third, unidentified man was there but this was denied by the Dowdalls, who also both said they did not know who filmed the interrogation.

After his ordeal, he said he was driven to a remote location and told to "get the f**k out of Dublin".

"I was told if I go to the f***ing gardai I will be picked up in a matter for hours, we have eyes everywhere and we will kill your family," he said.

Gardai discovered what the Dowdalls had done only a year later when they searched their Dublin home on March 9, 2016 for a separate reason and found a video of the incident on a USB stick.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Hurley said Jonathan Dowdall "proceeded to torture me to the point of death's door" and that his psychological injuries would never heal.

In evidence, he admitted he had posed as a barrister and taken "wrong turns" earlier in his life, but insisted he did not go to the Dowdalls to deceive them and intended to buy the bike.

Jonathan Dowdall told the court yesterday: "I was worried sick that my identity was being taken and I wanted to frighten him that he wouldn't use my identity for further scams.

"I can't justify it, it was wrong, it shouldn't have happened. It ruined my family's life and affected Mr Hurley's life."

Patrick Dowdall said in evidence: "Nothing was planned, it was a spur of the moment thing, it just got out of hand."

Judge Kennedy said video recording the events had been reprehensible enough but facilitating a young person to make the recording was an aggravating factor.

The video which was played to the court showed a "truly terrifying ordeal which words could not adequately convey".

It was fortunate that the recordings were recovered by the gardai in bringing the accused to justice, but on the other hand it was "chilling" that they were made, she said.

That Jonathan Dowdall had said he would upload the video to YouTube if necessary showed his "moral compass is fundamentally skewed", the judge said.

The victim could be seen and heard whimpering and pleading but despite his obvious fear, this "callous and brutal attack" continued, she added.

The judge said the court wished to deprecate in "the strongest possible terms" the disputing by the accused of evidence of "marginal materiality" which led to this week's 'Newton' hearing.

Putting the victim through the trauma of giving evidence "significantly lessens the credit that would otherwise be given for a very late plea of guilty", Judge Kennedy said.

Pliers

She then listed nine aggravating factors: the significant harm caused to the victim; the gratuitous, humiliating and degrading nature of what was done; its prolonged nature; the terror felt by the victim; the use of restraint in cable ties; the use of a cloth and bucket of water; production of pliers in the course of issuing threats; the severe impact on the victim; and the recording of the event.

Due to the gravity of the offence the court considered 14 years an appropriate sentence for Jonathan Dowdall but the judge reduced it to 12 years.

"Despite his protestations of remorse, the Newton hearing had the effect of tainting the genuine nature of that remorse," she said.

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