FOUR men charged over the kidnapping and torture of businessman Kevin Lunney have failed in their bid to keep key mobile phone and video evidence out of their trial.
The non-jury Special Criminal Court has rejected a defence challenge to the evidence which, the prosecution claims, connects the accused to the 2019 attack on the Quinn executive.
The defence had argued the video and phone data breached the accused’s privacy rights and were illegally gathered.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt said today the three-judge court was allowing nearly all the evidence to be adduced, after weeks of legal argument over its admissibility.
The trial, which had been adjourned for the judges to consider their ruling, will now resume.
Mr Lunney (52), a Quinn Industrial Holdings director, was bundled into a car outside his Co Fermanagh home and taken to a container where his captors broke his leg with a wooden bat, slashed his face with a Stanley knife and doused his wounds in bleach while ordering him to resign from the company.
They carved “QIH” into his chest with the knife and told him it was so he would “remember” before dumping him, stripped to his boxer shorts, on a roadside in Drumcoghill, Co Cavan, the court has heard.
Darren Redmond (27), of Caledon Road, Alan O’Brien (40) of Shelmalier Road, both in East Wall, Dublin, and a man “YZ” (40), who cannot legally be named, are all alleged to have been directly involved in the attack.
Luke O’Reilly (67), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan is accused of providing “material assistance in the planning and execution of the offences" and owned the land where Mr Lunney was allegedly held.
They all face the same charges of false imprisonment and causing serious harm to Mr Lunney at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan, on September 17th, 2019, which they deny.
The evidence sought to be adduced by the prosecution includes mobile phone records purporting to show the movements of the accused and contacts they had around the time of the abduction, as well as CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) footage and stills.
In a three-hour ruling, Mr Justice Hunt said today although the phone evidence represented a serious interference in the accused's rights, this was permissible under EU law for the investigation of serious crime.
The undisputed evidence of Mr Lunney placed the gravity of the offences in the top category of serious crimes, with aspects including the serious injury and degrading of Mr Lunney, he said.
It was clear the alleged crimes were committed on an organised basis, he said, with an alternative purpose of pressuring others.
Warrants used by gardai to access the phone records were an "appropriate and proper mechanism" that fulfilled the essential requirements of European law, he said.
The court did not accept there was any "systemic abuse of constitutional rights" by the gardai.
On the CCTV evidence, he said the court did not accept that private operators had been used as "proxies" for mass surveillance by the gardai.
Mr Justice Hunt said the court was ruling admissible all the evidence except for two CCTV excerpts and call data related to a phone attributed to YZ's partner's. Records from a phone number attributed to Mr Redmond are to be limited by date, the court ruled.
More to follow…