17 May 2006

Detective fails to block perjury trial over Omagh evidence


17/05/2006 - 13:16:31

The High Court in Dublin cleared the way today for a detective garda to stand trial for perjury relating to evidence he gave during the trial of Colm Murphy over the 1998 Omagh bomb.

Detective Garda Liam Donnelly claimed his right to a fair trial had been prejudiced as his original interview notes had gone missing.

He also claimed a delay in bringing the case against him had put him under prolonged stress and anxiety.

But rejecting the officer’s attempt to halt the pending trial, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said the delays in the case were not inordinate or unconscionable.

The second plank of Detective Donnelly's High Court challenge centred around the admissibility of interview notes.

With a page of the original notes now missing, the officer said there was no way he could receive a fair trial.

A forensic expert who conducted tests on the notes said a line in the original had been deleted and a new page of notes inserted in the book.

And the court heard that even photocopies of the original document would show changes had been made.

Mr Justice O’Neill said the fact that the original document was missing was more likely to damage the prosecution case than the detective’s defence.

He said it was for the trial judge to rule on that matter, not the High Court.

Mr Justice O’Neill also noted that it would have been very difficult and potentially hazardous if the detective had been arrested and charged earlier than 2005.

Detective Donnelly has the option of appealing against the decision in the Supreme Court, but lawyers for the DPP urged his legal team to make a quick decision.

Costs were awarded to the DPP.

Murphy was convicted in the non-jury Special Criminal Court in January 2002 of conspiring to cause an explosion.

Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the Real IRA no-warning strike which devastated the peaceful market town in August 1998.

But a retrial was subsequently ordered by the Court of Criminal Appeal after it quashed his conviction on two grounds, including the approach taken by the court regarding the alteration of Garda interview notes and the evidence officers gave.

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