18 January 2020
The murder of Keane Mulready-Woods is one of the most serious and shocking crimes we have seen in Ireland and demands a robust and comprehensive policing response. The Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner have made commitments that all necessary resources will be deployed to bring those involved in this horrific crime to justice. ICCL believes that the priority now must be for the gardaí to be given the resources and co-operation to carry out this investigation. Those responsible must face the full force of our criminal law.
The gardaí have not identified any change in law that is necessary for this investigation and we disagree with the comments of Deputy JimO’Callaghan in favour of changes to legislation. In particular, ICCL would strongly oppose any proposal to allow ‘opinion’ evidence in relation to organized crime because such changes are unnecessary, impractical, and would undermine the very principles of the rule of law that we are seeking to defend.
- We have in place a comprehensive body of law relating to illegal drugs and organized and serious crime. In recent years, the Drugs and Organised Crime Unit of An Garda Síochána have successfully investigated several individuals involved in serious organised crime who have been tried in the Special Criminal Court.
- Irish law already allows garda opinion evidence in bail hearings and as evidence as to the existence of an organised crime gang (section 71B of the Criminal Justice Act as amended by section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009). This provision was introduced by a Fianna Fáil led Government.
- The nature of gangs and other organized crime bodies means that creating special offences of ‘membership’ of such gangs would prove meaningless in practice.
- Serious organized crime presents a direct attack on the rule of law. We must not respond to these criminal organizations by sacrificing the cornerstone of our legal system – namely the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
With regard to the current use of ‘opinion’ evidence in cases concerning membership of an illegal organization, it is notable that the Special Criminal Court has recently expressed concern about reliance on unchallenged opinions and secret evidence. If any changes were to be introduced to the current law on opinion evidence, it should be provide additional safeguards, rather than to further undermine the presumption of innocence.
Liam Herrick is Executive Director of ICCL