Three accused of identifing Ana Kriegel’s killers may face trial in higher court after appeal

Court of Appeal ruling vacates High Court decsion quashing refusal of jurisdiction by District Court judge

The Court of Appeal has overturned a High Court ruling that quashed a District Court judge’s refusal to hear the cases of three people accused of publishing information online identifying the teenage boys who murdered Ana Kriegel in 2018.

“We do not consider that there was any unfairness to the respondents, or breach of their rights to constitutional justice,” said Mr Justice John Edwards, vacating a ruling by the High Court in which Ms Justice Siobhán Phelan quashed a decision by Judge John Hughes to refuse jurisdiction in the case.

Edel Doherty (48), of Rory O’Connor House, Hardwicke Street, Dublin, appeared at Dublin District Court in October 2020 accused of posting photos on Facebook of two teenagers, known as Boy A and Boy B, who were convicted of the schoolgirl’s murder following a trial in 2019.

Kyle Rooney (26), of Rathfield Park, Raheny, Dublin, was charged with posting photos of the two boys on Twitter.


Declan Corcoran (30), of Williams Place Lower, Dublin, was accused of naming the boys on Twitter and of posting images of them.

Ana Kriegel (14) was murdered at a disused farmhouse in Lucan in May 2018 by the boys when they were 13-years-old. They could not be identified by order of the trial judge and under a provision of the Children Act that prohibits the identification of minors accused or convicted of a criminal offence.

The three accused were among 10 people charged with similar breaches of the Children Act who were initially told by Judge Brian O’Shea in October 2020 that jurisdiction was accepted and that the matters could be heard at District Court level.

However, when the matter returned to the District Court on December 2nd, 2020, Judge Hughes deemed  the offences as being too serious for his court and ruled that they should be heard in the Circuit Court, where penalties upon conviction can be more severe.

The three accused then brought a successful judicial review to the High Court challenging the decision, where Ms Justice Phelan decided that the matter should be sent back to the lower court for “reconsideration”.

Ms Justice Phelan said the manner in which Judge Hughes had approached the issue of jurisdiction was unfair because he did not address the cases individually or give reasons for the change.

The State subsequently appealed this decision, submitting to the Court of Appeal that the return of the matter to the District Court was made in error by the High Court and that “no breach of natural justice had been made” by Judge Hughes.

In delivering the Court of Appeal’s judgement, Mr Justice Edwards said that at least one judge must give consideration to whether these are minor offences, and if decided, a second judge is entitled to reconsider the matter of jurisdiction.

“We do not see how a judge in such a position could be bound by the ruling of a colleague which was based on evidence that they have not personally heard,” said Mr Justice Edwards.

He said that up to the point that a person is found guilty or enters a guilty plea, a decision by a judge of jurisdiction is not a determination set in stone.

“For all anyone may know, the decision by the first District Court judge could well have been a finely balanced one, resulting in that judge opting by a narrow margin to come down on one side of the jurisdictional line. However, a subsequent judge, hearing the same evidence, might perfectly legitimately opt to come down on the other side of that line,” he said.

He said that the fact that Judge O’Shea accepted jurisdiction did not bind Judge Hughes, who was entitled to ask for an outline of the alleged facts. Mr Justice Edwards said the Court of Appeal rejected the assertion that the manner by which Judge Hughes dealt with the proceedings gave rise to a reasonable apprehension that he was dissatisfied with the previous determination of a colleague.

Mr Justice Edwards said that the Court of Appeal disagreed with the High Court judge’s assertion that it would have been unrealistic to have required the legal representatives to engage with the judge about his reasons.

“The legal representatives would have been perfectly entitled to ask him to elaborate on such reasons. They did not do so,” he said.

He went on to say that the court was strongly in agreement with the submission by the State that the mere fact that the judge of the District Court ruled on jurisdiction in a rolled-up ruling does not imply a failure on his part to give individual consideration to each of the respondents’ cases.

“There was no failure to meet the requirement that not only should justice be done but that it should be seen to be done,” he said. “We do not consider that there was any unfairness to the respondents, or breach of their rights to constitutional justice.”

Mr Justice Edwards said that the Court of Appeal was vacating the orders of certiorari granted by the High Court and the consequential orders remitting these matters to the District Court for a plea or a date in each case, and the High Court’s orders regarding costs.

He said that these matters will subsequently be remitted back to the District Court to ascertain whether the Director of Public Prosecutions is consenting to the respondents being sent forward for trial.

He adjourned any issues as to costs or possible recommendations under the Legal Aid Scheme to December 1st.