High Court reporters
Three people accused of breaching publication restrictions during the trial of the murder of teenager Ana Kriégel have won a High Court challenge over how their cases were dealt with in the District Court.
The three, who were among 10 people charged with similar breaches under the Children Act 2001, were initially told the charges against them could be dealt with in the District Court where penalties are less severe.
However, another judge decided the offences were too serious and they should be sent for trial before a judge and jury in the Circuit Court where penalties are more severe.
As a result, the three brought a High Court challenge over the second judge’s decision.
Ms Justice Siobhán Phelan decided the matter should be sent back to the District Court for reconsideration.
Two boys, referred to as Boy A and Boy B, were convicted for the murder of Ana Kriégel in a disused farmhouse in Lucan, Dublin, in May 2018 following a trial in 2019.
Boy A was sentenced to life imprisonment with a review after 12 years, and eight years for aggravated sexual assault.
Boy B was sentenced to 15 years’ detention, to be reviewed after eight years. He has appealed his conviction.
Following the boys' trial, Edel Doherty (48), of Rory O’Connor House, Hardwicke Street, Dublin, came before Dublin District Court accused of posting photos of the convicted boys on Facebook.
Kyle Rooney (26), of Rathfield Park, Raheny, Dublin, was charged in connection with the posting of photos of the two boys on Twitter.
Declan Corcoran (30), of Williams Place Lower, Dublin, was accused of naming the boys on Twitter.
All three came before the District Court in October 2020 when Judge Brian O'Shea determined, after hearing the alleged facts relating to each accused, that the cases were suitable for trial at District Court-level where penalties are lower.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had consented to trial at District Court level.
A conviction in the District Court for breach of reporting restrictions attracts a fine of up to €1,500, up to 12 months imprisonment, or both. In the Circuit Court, those penalties rise to up to €10,000, three years imprisonment, or both.
Judge O'Shea adjourned the cases for the defendants to decide whether they were going to plead guilty or have a hearing before the District Court.
However, when their cases returned before the court on December 2nd, 2020, District Judge John Hughes was sitting and decided the charges were not minor in nature and were unfit for trial in the summary jurisdiction of the District Court.
Judge Hughes made this ruling despite objections from defence lawyers.
The three brought separate High Court challenges over the decision claiming one District judge cannot review or reconsider the jurisdiction issue until the court is actually in the process of hearing the case.
It was also argued Judge Hughes failed to elaborate on his reasons for his decision.
The DPP, as respondent, opposed the challenges on grounds including that the judge was entitled to revisit the question of jurisdiction, notwithstanding the decision of another judge.
Ms Justice Phelan quashed Judge Hughes' decision and sent the matter back to the District Court for reconsideration.
She said the manner in which Judge Hughes approached the issue of jurisdiction was unfair because he did not address the three cases individually or acknowledge the differences between each of the three cases.
There was no issue about the power of one judge to refuse jurisdiction even though a colleague has already accepted it, she said.
She remitted the cases back to the District Court for the accused to enter a guilty plea or for a hearing to take place. However, she emphasised she was not precluding reconsideration of jurisdiction by the District judge who will deal with them next time.