The trial of four men accused of abducting and assaulting Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney will now proceed at the end of this month after almost five months of delays, the Special Criminal Court heard today.
The case, which was in for mention today before the Special Criminal Court, had originally been fixed for trial on January 11th at the non-jury court.
The trial had been continually delayed at the three-judge court because of public health concerns caused by a combination of Covid-19 and the number of witnesses in the case.
Father-of-six Mr Lunney (51), 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 in 2019.
Luke O'Reilly (67), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; Darren Redmond (26), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; and Alan O'Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 1, are all charged with false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm to Mr Lunney (51) at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, on September 17th, 2019. Another male, 'YZ', who cannot be named for legal reasons, is also charged with the same offences at the same date and location.
The court heard that 'YZ' had a separate legal matter now disposed of and State Counsel Mr Sean Guerin SC enquired as to whether or not his anonymity should be still in place.
Mr Aidan McCarthy BL said that 'YZ' has three further upcoming court matters and that his client was "anxious" to retain his anonymity, which Mr Justice Tony Hunt allowed.
The judge said that the May 31 date would allow for nine weeks of the 12-week trial to go ahead "straight through" until the court goes on vacation at the end of July, with the possibility of resuming in September.
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.
At the end of January the judge said that he had 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 1 and that this date was "subject to developments". The March 1 date was later replaced with May 31st.
Mr Justice Hunt said 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".
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 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.
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 involved in the case 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 that DNA was allegedly "planted" on the van that he alleges was deliberately destroyed in a fire, so it wouldn't be made available to the defence. However, the State told the court that the fire began accidentally and that CCTV footage had been disclosed to the defence.
It had been also unsuccessfully argued by defence counsel that the trial should not go on until the Ombudsman's investigation into that matter is completed.