As the first law term of 2022 opens on Monday, Graham Dwyer continues to await the final outcome of the State’s appeal against a landmark ruling in his favour concerning Ireland’s phone data retention laws.
The Supreme Court’s judgment, expected later this year, may not just boost Dwyer’s effort to overturn his 2015 conviction for the murder of childcare worker Elaine O’Hara but, according to Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, could mean lowering “to the point of impossibility” the ability to prosecute serious crime.
Another high-profile case is the trial at the non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC) in January of former Defence Forces member Lisa Smith (39), from Dundalk, Co Louth, who denies charges of membership of the Islamic State terrorist group and of financing terrorism.
Her trial is due to open on January 10th and is listed for 12 weeks.
Gerard 'The Monk' Hutch, of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, will ask the High Court in January for orders aimed at preventing the SCC hearing his trial on charges of the murder of Kinahan gang member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016.
The 58-year-old is listed to go on trial on October 3rd alongside four co-accused charged in connection with Mr Byrne’s murder.
Mr Byrne (34), From Crumlin in Dublin, was shot dead at the hotel on the Swords Road in Dublin in February 2016 after five men, three disguised as armed gardaí, stormed the building, which was hosting a boxing weigh-in at the time.
Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall (43), with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, who is also charged with Mr Byrne's murder, has a similar challenge before the High Court in January over the SCC's jurisdiction to hear his trial.
Much attention is expected to focus on the hearing before the Court of Appeal, expected later this year, of an appeal by one of two boys found guilty of the murder of schoolgirl Ana Kriégel.
Identified only as Boy A and Boy B, both were found guilty in June 2019 of murdering the 14-year-old girl at an abandoned farmhouse in Lucan on May 14th, 2018. Boy A was also convicted of aggravated sexual assault. Both boys were aged 13 at the time of the murder.
Aaron Brady’s appeal against his conviction for the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgen, Co Louth on January 25th, 2013 is also expected to be heard this year.
Brady (30), with a last address at New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, was found guilty of the murder of Det Garda Donohoe by a majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court in August 2020. Because he was found guilty of murdering a garda acting in accordance with his duty, the trial judge ordered that he serve a minimum of 40 years' imprisonment. Brady was also sentenced to a concurrent term of 14 years for robbery of €7,000.
Litigation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wend its way through the courts.
An estimated 1,000 pubs and other businesses are awaiting the High Court’s decision, due in January, concerning the amount of business interruption compensation to be paid by insurer FBD to four bars who won test cases brought after FBD denied liability in the matter.
Measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 are at the centre of an appeal by John Waters and Gemma O'Doherty to the Supreme Court over the High Court's refusal to permit them to legally challenge the disputed laws.
There is huge interest in High Court test challenges by a number of plaintiffs in personal injury cases to the constitutionality of new judicially approved guidelines slashing damages for mainly minor personal injuries.
The cases involve a full frontal attack on the guidelines, approved last April by a majority of the country’s judges, and are expected to get early hearing dates in the High Court this year. Their outcome could have significant implications outside the individual cases, not alone for litigants, but also for lawyers, insurers, the judiciary and the State.
Bitter disputes between some former directors of the Web Summit and its chief executive, Paddy Cosgrave, have led to three legal actions – two alleging shareholder oppression and one alleging breach of directors’ duties – which are expected to be heard before the Commercial Court later in 2022. Case management hearings in the litigation will be held in January.
The celebrated Harry Clarke stained glass windows in Bewley's Café on Grafton Street are at the centre of another Commercial Court dispute, due for hearing in March. Developer Johnny Ronan is claiming ownership of the windows, valued at some €2 million, but Bewley's operator Paddy Campbell disagrees and wants to donate the windows to the Irish people.
A European Court of Justice ruling on key issues of EU law arising in Graham Dwyer’s phone data retention case is expected in the early months of this year, after which the Supreme Court will reconvene to finally decide the State’s appeal over a High Court ruling in favour of Dwyer.
The formal striking down of the Irish 2011 law concerning data retention remains on hold pending the Supreme Court decision, which is likely to be heavily guided by the ECJ ruling.
The omens are good for Dwyer after a senior judicial adviser to the ECJ trenchantly confirmed, in an opinion last November, that ECJ case law only permits general and indiscriminate retention of electronic communications traffic and location data where there is “a serious threat to national security”.
That “does not include the prosecution of offences, including serious offences”, the Advocate General’s opinion stated.
Because Irish law permits general retention for two years, it does not comply with EU law, the opinion said. Access by competent national authorities to retained data does not appear to be subject to prior review by a court or independent authority, as required under EU law, but rather to the discretion of a garda of certain rank, it further noted.
In January the Supreme Court will hear an important environmental appeal, by An Taisce, over the High Court's rejection of its challenge to planning permission for a controversial Glanbia continental cheese plant in Co Kilkenny. An Taisce claims An Bord Pleanála failed to have appropriate regard to the off-site production of 450 million litres of milk required annually by the plant.
The pandemic continues to mean delays in getting cases on in many courts, particularly criminal trials involving witnesses. The physical hearing of criminal trials resumed last autumn but long delays persist, particularly for accused persons not in custody who face waits of up to three years for a hearing.
A woman accused of murdering a two-year-old child in the south of the country faces trial at the Central Criminal Court in Cork on April 25th. A court order anonymising the accused was imposed last February after a defence application.
A man accused of murdering Det Garda Colm Horkan in a shooting in Roscommon will go on trial at the Central Criminal Court in June.
Stephen Silver (44) of Aughaward, Foxford, Co Mayo, is charged with the murder of Garda Horkan, acting in the course of his duty at Main Street, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, on June 17th, 2020. Det Garda Horkan (49), who was based in Castlerea Garda Station, died after he was shot while responding to an incident in the Co Roscommon town last year.
Mr Silver is currently in custody at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.
The Special Criminal Court is due to deliver its judgment on January 17th in the trial of property magnate Jim Mansfield jnr, who pleaded not guilty to setting up one of his employees to be kidnapped by a criminal gang. Mr Mansfield jnr (54), of Tasaggart House, Garters Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin, has denied conspiring with one or more persons to falsely imprison Martin Byrne on a date unknown between January 1st, 2015 and June 30th, 2015.
He also denied attempting to pervert the course of justice by directing Patrick Byrne to destroy recorded CCTV footage, with the alleged intention of perverting the course of public justice in relation to the false imprisonment of Martin Byrne (53) at Finnstown House Hotel, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co Dublin between June 9th, 2015, and June 12th, 2015.
Two men are due to be tried at the SCC on April 25th concerning the murder of teenager Keane Mulready Woods, whose dismembered body parts were found at three sites in Dublin and Drogheda. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
Paul Crosby (25) and Gerard Cruise (47), with addresses in Rathmullan Park, Drogheda, Co Louth, and Dublin 1, are charged with the teenager's murder at a house in Rathmullan Park on January 12th or 13th, 2020.