Jonathan Dowdall due to take witness stand in Regency hotel murder trial

Court will first be updated about assessment of Dowdall for witness protection programme

Jonathan Dowdall is due to begin his evidence in the trial of Gerard Hutch at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Tom Honan

Tight security is expected to surround the Criminal Courts of Justice on Monday where Jonathan Dowdall is due to begin his evidence in the trial of Gerard ‘the Monk’ Hutch.

Mr Hutch, with a last address at The Paddocks, Clontarf, has denied the murder of David Byrne (33) at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 6th, 2016.

When his trial, listed for 12 weeks, opened before a three judge non-jury Special Criminal Court on October 18th, prosecuting counsel Seán Gillane SC said the case of the Director of Public Prosecutions is that Mr Hutch was part of a six-person team who participated in the “execution-style” killing of Mr Byrne.

Counsel said Jonathan Dowdall had said that, during a conversation with Mr Hutch in a park in Whitehall, Dublin, some days after the killing, and after publication in the Sunday World of a photograph of two people whom the prosecution allege were among the six, Mr Hutch told him “they” had carried out the murder and he was one of the team who shot David Byrne.

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Dowdall, a married father of four and former Sinn Féin councillor, was previously a co-accused of Mr Hutch on the charge of murder. Last September, he pleaded guilty, alongside his father Patrick, of Navan Road, Dublin, to a lesser charge of facilitating a criminal gang to commit the murder of Mr Byrne. Jonathan Dowdall was jailed in October for four years and the murder charge was formally dropped.

Mr Hutch’s lawyers have argued Dowdall’s evidence was inadmissible on grounds including his motivation for that. The court heard last week he continues to be assessed for inclusion on the witness protection programme.

The Special Criminal Court rejected the arguments concerning admissibility, clearing the way for Dowdall to testify. Before he takes the stand, the court will hear evidence from a Garda detective superintendent about what determines his acceptance into the programme.

Mr Hutch’s trial is running alongside the trials of two other men – Paul Murphy (59), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin. Both have denied participating in/contributing to activity which could facilitate the murder of David Byrne by a criminal organisation by providing access to specified motor vehicles to that organisation or its members.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times