The trial of four men accused of abducting and assaulting Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney will not now proceed at the Special Criminal Court before March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, this morning said that he has been told by the president of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine that “following meetings at a higher level”, the 12-week trial would not be able to start before March 1st and this date was “subject to developments”.
The case, which was in for mention today before the three-judge court, had originally been fixed for trial on January 11th at the non-jury court.
However, on January 5th, Mr Justice Hunt said that the trial would be delayed as “the position seemed to be that it would be undesirable and imprudent to proceed to start this case on schedule considering the public health situation”. The judge remarked at the time that it was “absolutely our intention” for the trial to proceed on February 1st.
Luke O’Reilly (66), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; Darren Redmond (25), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; and Alan O’Brien (38) of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 1, are all charged with false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm to Mr Lunney (50) at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019. Another male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is also charged with the same offences at the same date and location.
Father-of-six Mr Lunney (50), had his leg broken, was doused in bleach and had the letters QIH carved into his chest before he was dumped on a roadside in Co Cavan.
Mr Justice Hunt said today that remote hearings were taking place in the courts but pointed out that the trial of the four accused men did not “fall into that category”.
Sean Guerin SC, on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), asked Mr Justice Hunt if there was “any merit” in reviewing the commencement date on an interim basis.
Mr Justice Hunt said he would list the case for February 24th as matters are being “reviewed upstream” on the previous day. “I hope to say on February 24th that we will be proceeding on March 1st or whatever date, and we will also work out the modus operandi,” he added.
At this morning’s brief hearing, Mr Justice Hunt provisionally fixed March 1st for the trial to commence and listed the case for mention on February 24th.
The court had previously been told that there are over 50,000 documents involved in the case that needed to be digitally rendered and that there had been issues with disclosure.
In December, the three-judge court dismissed a bid to halt the trial over a ruling expected from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on data retention.
Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, for the unnamed man, argued that the law on the retention and accessing of mobile phone data was in “a state of significant uncertainty” in Ireland and that the trial should not proceed until the matter was resolved.
Kevin Lunney abduction accused complains to Garda…
However, Mr Justice Hunt said that it was not enough to justify an adjournment.
The judge also found the fact that a Renault Kangoo van went on fire while in the possession of gardaí was “immutable” and was also not a sufficient basis to adjourn.
One of the four men has complained to the Garda ombudsman alleging that DNA was planted on the van, allegedly used in the abduction, so it would not be made available to the defence.
It had been also unsuccessfully argued by defence counsel that the trial should not go on until the ombudsman’s investigation is completed.