A man who had arranged to meet dissident republican Peter Butterly at the scene of his "execution-type" murder has been jailed for 18 months for disrupting the garda investigation.
Mr Butterly, a father of three, was shot dead shortly after 2pm in the car park of the Huntsman Inn at Gormanston, Co Meath on March 6th, 2013, in view of students waiting for their school bus. He died from gunshot wounds to his neck and upper back.
Last May, Ray Kennedy (40) of Whitestown Drive, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, was found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of perverting the course of justice by destroying a mobile phone SIM card on March 6th, 2013, an item the State has said "would have been of very significant evidential value" to the murder investigation. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.
It was Kennedy's second trial in connection with the murder. In December 2019, after a 36-day trial, the non-jury court directed that Kennedy be found not guilty of IRA membership after gardaí refused to release secret material in the case, despite a court ruling that it should be disclosed.
In passing sentence on Monday at the non-jury court, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that Kennedy's case was one that presented "difficult circumstances" due to the ill health of his daughter.
Mr Justice Hunt said that a headline sentence of four years was appropriate but ruled on humanitarian grounds that two-and-a-half years of that term be suspended.
Outlining the case, Mr Justice Hunt said that Kennedy knew Mr Butterly well and had arranged to meet him through a phone call the day before the murder.
The judge said that when Kennedy showed up at the scene shortly after the killing, he was informed by gardaí of what had happened. Kennedy had been requested by gardaí to remain at the scene to be interviewed.
Mr Justice Hunt said that Kennedy's phone was of interest to gardaí in investigating the murder but "for whatever reason and while waiting to be interviewed", Kennedy had taken out the SIM card from the phone and "disposed" of it.
The judge said that the investigation into the destruction of the card was a "serious matter", especially in the "critical and early" stages of a Garda investigation.
Mr Justice Hunt said that Kennedy had put "considerable assistance beyond the reach of gardaí" by destroying the phone card and fixed a headline sentence of four years imprisonment.
The judge said that Kennedy had also put a "significant" element of mitigation "beyond qualification" in choosing to take the case to trial.
The judge said that there were factors of a personal nature for Kennedy in his favour and noted that the defendant had co-operated throughout the investigation into him destroying the card.
Mr Justice Hunt also gave Kennedy credit for his record since the events of March 6th, 2013.
The judge said that it was "impossible" not to be sympathetic regarding Kennedy's daughter, who, he said, had a "documented and established condition".
This, however, amounted to the height of mitigation on humanitarian grounds, said Mr Justice Hunt, who added that he could not fully suspend the sentence, which had been requested by Kennedy's legal team.
The judge said that the circumstances of the case were "very difficult to analyse" before suspending two and a half years of the four-year sentence, which applies from Monday.
Kennedy entered into an own-bond agreement of €100 to be of good behaviour upon his release from prison for two-and-a-half years.
Four men - Kevin Braney (46), of Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght, Dublin 24; Edward McGrath (39), of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght; Sharif Kelly (51), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan and Dean Evans (29), of Grange Park Rise, Raheny, Dublin - have all already received life sentences at the Special Criminal Court following convictions for Mr Butterly's murder.
Two other men, Michael McDermott (61), of Riverdale House, Garrymore, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, and Frank Murphy (60), of McDonagh Caravan Park, Triton Road, Bettystown, Co Meath, who played roles in the murder of Mr Butterly have also been jailed.