Supreme Court to rule on effect of decision on Patrick Quirke murder conviction

Lawyers asked court to order retrial for murder of DJ Bobby Ryan

The Supreme Court will rule on Friday concerning the effect on Patrick Quirke’s murder conviction of its important decision that a computer seized from his home was unlawfully searched.

The seven-judge court heard submissions last May from lawyers on behalf of Quirke and the Director of Public Prosecutions concerning how the matter should proceed.

The issues to be addressed in its follow on judgment on Friday include whether the court may order a retrial, as lawyers for Quirke sought, or rule itself on what should happen concerning the computer evidence.

The Supreme Court gave judgment last March on the Co Tipperary farmer’s appeal against his 2019 conviction for the 2011 murder of his alleged love rival, Bobby Ryan, a DJ known as Mr Moonlight.


In what was perceived as a significant win for Quirke in his bid to have his conviction quashed, it ruled gardaí had unlawfully searched the content of a computer from his home.

His trial heard the computer was used for internet searches on the rate of decomposition of human remains and the limitations of forensic DNA.

In the Supreme Court judgment, Mr Justice Peter Charleton ruled a physical analysis of a computer device was permitted to search for the personal effects of a crime victim, as specified by the gardaí in seeking the warrant.

Because its use as a portal into the digital world meant a search of its contents involved a more significant intrusion into privacy rights, the judge said any such search must be judicially authorised and gardai needed to say why such a search might be reasonably needed in the sworn information seeking the search warrant.

Because that was not done, the court declared the search of the computer’s contents unlawful.

Quirke was arrested after Bobby Ryan’s remains were found in a disused underground tank on a farm at Fawnagowan owned by Mary Lowry on April 30th, 2013, almost two years after he went missing. Mr Ryan had been in a relationship with Ms Lowry and was last seen alive as he left her home early on June 3rd, 2011.

The prosecution argued at Quirke’s trial that circumstantial evidence validly established that he had murdered Mr Ryan.

Quirke denied the murder charge but was convicted by a 10/2 majority jury verdict.

After he lost an appeal to the Court of Appeal against his conviction, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a further appeal because of the importance of the issues raised.

The core issue concerned the scope of the warrant, granted by the District Court, under section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, to search Quirke’s home.

The Attorney General and Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission were joined to the appeal to make submissions on that issue.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times