Murder accused barrister granted bail on strict conditions pending trial

Diarmuid Rossa Phelan was granted bail on condition that he enter his own bond of €50,000, while an independent surety of €50,000 will also be required
Murder accused barrister granted bail on strict conditions pending trial

Alison O'Riordan

Updated 9pm

A leading barrister who is accused of murdering a father-of-four in a fatal shooting on farmland in Tallaght has been granted bail, after the Court of Appeal overturned the rejection of his bail application by the High Court last month.

Diarmuid Rossa Phelan was granted bail on condition that he enter his own bond of €50,000, while an independent surety of €50,000 will also be required. The court previously heard that the largest amount of bail fixed in the State to date was €100,000.

Ruling on Mr Phelan's bail application on Friday evening, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the accused man enjoys a presumption of innocence and as part of that he enjoys a presumption in favour of bail.

He said Mr Phelan, who is a law lecturer and senior counsel, has ties to the State as a member of the Bar of Ireland and as a person with significant assets in this jurisdiction.

Mr Phelan has never offended and "on the contrary has been a person of good standing in the community", Mr Justice Birmingham said. He added that the bail conditions agreed between the parties justified the court's decision to admit Mr Phelan to bail.

The Associate Professor of Law at Trinity College sought bail in the High Court last month but his application was rejected by Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy on the grounds that he is a serious flight risk.

Mr Phelan appealed the decision by the High Court not to grant him bail to the Court of Appeal, which heard submissions earlier this week.

'Powerful incentive to evade justice'

Last month, Ms Justice Murphy said that the applicant had a "powerful incentive to evade justice" based on the seriousness of the charge, the strength of the evidence, the likely sentence in the event of a conviction and alleged ongoing threats to the accused.

She also said the full extent of Mr Phelan's assets was not known and the court noted that three different addresses in south Dublin had been submitted by the accused.

However, Mr Phelan successfully appealed the High Court decision today and he was accordingly granted bail by the Court of Appeal on a number of strict conditions.

On Tuesday of this week, the Court of Appeal President Mr Justice Birmingham asked that the applicant provide a comprehensive financial statement to the court setting out his assets, liabilities, all sources of income in recent years and details of any property in and outside the jurisdiction.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Birmingham told Mr Phelan that he left the High Court judge "totally in the dark" in regards to his financial affairs when applying for bail.

Mr Phelan (53), of Kiltalown Lane, Tallaght, Co Dublin is accused of the murder of Keith Conlon (36) at Hazelgrove Farm, Kiltalown Lane, Tallaght, on February 22nd this year.

Mr Conlon, from Kiltalown Park in Tallaght, was severely injured in the shooting incident and died at Tallaght University Hospital two days later.

Strict conditions

Mr John Fitzgerald SC, for the State, said it was the court's decision whether to grant bail to the applicant and went on to read the bail conditions to the court, which heard that Mr Phelan must enter his own bond of €50,000, while an independent surety of €50,000 was also required. Both of these amounts must be lodged in full.

Mr Fitzgerald also confirmed that Mr Phelan must surrender his US passport to gardaí and undertake not to apply for any US passport, Irish visa or any other form of travel documents. The US embassy is to be informed that Mr Phelan is on bail on serious charges and they must contact gardaí if he applies for a passport or visa.

He must also reside at an address approved by gardaí, sign on daily at a named Garda station between 9am and 9pm, obey a curfew of 10pm to 8am at the provided address, provide a mobile phone number to gardaí within 24 hours of his release and keep it on him.

Furthermore, he must meet gardaí within 24 hours of his release and provide access to all his Irish and foreign bank accounts.

He must stay out of Tallaght and out of his properties in Wexford and have no contact with prosecution witnesses in the case. He is not to leave the 26 counties or join a gun club or purchase any firearms.

Mr Fitzgerald said that the accused's sureties were to be approved in Cloverhill Prison on April 13th.

Earlier, Mr Phelan was called by his defence counsel Mr O'Higgins to give evidence regarding his financial affairs. He took the stand a second time to tell his counsel that he was willing to consent to the bail conditions and abide by them. He said he understood that if he failed to comply then his bail could be revoked.

Mr Phelan told his barrister that he would attend court for any mentions of his case and that he would turn up for his trial.

Mr O'Higgins said that his client had agreed not to report to Trinity College, where he lectures, for the next three weeks.

Mr Phelan was granted bail until his trial date, which will be fixed later.

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