Judgment reserved in Alan Harte’s challenge to a conviction for his part in the kidnapping of Kevin Lunney – The Irish Times

The High Court has reserved its decision in Alan Harte’s challenge to vacate both the conviction and the 30-year sentence he received from the Special Criminal Court (SCC) for his role in the kidnapping and assault of businessman Kevin Lunney .

In his lawsuit, Harte challenges the constitutionality of Section 40 of the Crimes Against the State Act of 1939, which directs that a person brought before the three-judge court cannot be told whether he was tried by majority vote or by unanimously condemned.

The 1939 Act provides for the establishment of the non-jury SCC.

His lawsuit is against the SCC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the state and the Attorney General.

The motion is rejected by respondents, who argue that the challenged legislation is constitutional.

The lawsuit opened before Ms. Judge Marguerite Bolger on Thursday.

After the parties’ comments were completed, the judge reserved her decision and said she would announce her verdict at a later date.

Represented by Michael O’Higgins SC, with Michael Hourigan BL, acting for Attorney John Quinn, Harte is seeking an order to set aside the conviction and sentence imposed on him by the SCC.

He also seeks a judicial determination that his trial before the SCC was unfair, illegal and violated his constitutional rights.

Mr O’Higgins opened the case and told the court the issues raised were novel.

The attorney said his client was tried before the SCC for offenses that would normally go before a jury in the Circuit Criminal Court. The standard of evidence required to either convict or acquit his client should be mirrored, he said.

The attorney said that a majority decision by a three-judge SCC should not carry the same weight as a majority decision by a 10-2 or 11-1 jury. This scenario is not fair, the lawyer submitted.

The attorney also accepted that any appeals or amendments to the allegedly unconstitutional sections would be a matter for the Oireachtas.

In response, Remy Farrell SC said for the defendants that the conviction and sentence imposed should remain undisturbed.

The SCC, a non-jury court that evolved from military tribunals that can make decisions by a 2-to-1 majority, is not required to reflect the number of jurors required to reach verdicts in criminal cases, the said Attorney.

In 2021, Harte (aged 42) was sentenced by the SCC to 30 years in prison for causing serious damage to Kevin Lunney, director of Quinn Industrial Holdings, in September 2019 at a farm in Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan and causing him wrongly detained.

Under Section 40 of the 1939 Act, Harte claims he does not know whether all three SCC judges found him guilty or whether he was convicted by a majority.

This, it is claimed, is in contrast to a jury trial, which since 1984 has required at least ten jurors to decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty of a crime with which he has been charged.

A simple 2-1 majority decision by the SCC is a vast departure from what is required of a jury in a criminal trial.

According to Harte’s lawyers, Section 40 undermines the constitutional guarantees of equal treatment and amounts to unlawful discrimination.

https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/courts/2023/03/18/judgment-reserved-in-alan-hartes-challenge-to-conviction-for-role-in-kevin-lunney-kidnapping/ Judgment reserved in Alan Harte’s challenge to a conviction for his part in the kidnapping of Kevin Lunney – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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