Case against Hutch stands or falls on evidence of ‘proven and admitted liar’ Jonathan Dowdall, court told – The Irish Times
The prosecution case against Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch stands or falls on whether the Special Criminal Court can believe the evidence of the “proven and admitted liar and perjurer” Jonathan Dowdall, a barrister has told the three-judge, non-jury court.
Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Hutch, gave his closing speech on Wednesday afternoon, telling the court that Dowdall is a “master manipulator” who decided he would give evidence against Gerard Hutch to get his own charge of murdering David Byrne dropped. Counsel said the only evidence against Mr Hutch, besides Dowdall’s “flawed” testimony, is an eight-hour audio recording of conversations between Mr Hutch and Dowdall in which the prosecution alleges the accused made tacit admissions about his role in the shooting at the Regency Hotel in 2016. Mr Grehan added: “I challenge anyone to find any unambiguous admission to involvement in the Regency anywhere in the transcript.”
He said there were lots of references in those recordings that contradicted the prosecution case and while there were numerous references where a court could conclude that the “Hutch gang” were involved in the Regency attack, he said, “the Hutch gang cannot be equated with Gerard Hutch”.
Counsel said that the prosecution had suggested the tapes showed that on March 7th, 2016 Mr Hutch had control over the guns used in the Regency attack when he was allegedly bringing them north to gift them to the IRA. But, Mr Grehan said, this was more than one month after the Regency and, he added: “News flash, Mr Hutch isn’t charged with firearms offences, he is not charged with possession of firearms. The prosecution had a choice of what charges to bring and they chose what charges to bring.”
Much of what is in the recordings, Mr Grehan said, could amount to Mr Hutch getting involved after the Regency attack “to try to deal with the fallout”. He said the recordings could suggest that Mr Hutch travelled north to speak to republicans “to try to find an alternative to more bloodshed”.
Mr Grehan also conceded that there were “arguably things said and discussed” in the recordings that “could suggest serious criminality on the part of Gerard Hutch.” But he reminded the court that his client is not charged with conspiracy to commit crimes and the prosecution has “nailed its colours to the mast” by charging Mr Hutch with murder.
Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of Mr Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5, 2016.
Mr Hutch’s two co-accused – Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin and Jason Bonney (52), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13 have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of Mr Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5, 2016.
Mr Grehan said there were “two big lies” at the heart of Dowdall’s evidence – that Gerard Hutch had collected a key card for a room in the Regency that had been booked for the night of the attack and that Mr Hutch had confessed to Dowdall that he was one of the “attack men” dressed as gardaí who entered the Regency and shot David Byrne. He said that the prosecution had tried to play down the importance of Dowdall’s evidence but ultimately came back to it when they nominated Mr Hutch as one of the gunmen during the prosecution’s closing speech.
“Therefore the prosecution case for murder stands or falls on whether the court can believe the evidence of Mr Dowdall in respect of that matter,” Mr Grehan said.
Mr Grehan said the State’s witness had repeatedly lied to gardai when they questioned him about the Regency and he lied to Joe Duffy on RTE’s Liveline when he said he had no involvement in criminality. He described Dowdall in the Liveline interview as “very good, very persuasive, a convincing, confident and practised liar”.
Mr Grehan said that during his cross-examination of Dowdall, the witness was evasive and at one point gave “whatever Mr Grehan” answers that counsel said were, the “type of responses you would get from a petulant teenager”. All that, Mr Grehan said, “must raise huge alarm bells in any court’s eyes when assessing the reliability of anything he has to say concerning Gerard Hutch.”
Mr Grehan finished his speech by saying the prosecution had tried to ride two horses – Dowdall’s testimony and the audio recordings – and marry them off by putting them together. “What has happened is what always happens when you try to do that, they have fallen between both and have not made out a case that this court or any court could be satisfied of the guilt of Gerard Hutch on the charge they have chosen to bring against him.”
Earlier, barrister Fiona Murphy SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions told the court that Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch was one of two gunmen disguised in tactical gear who shot Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne in a “brutal and callous execution” as the victim scrambled on the ground of the Regency Hotel among “complete carnage”, and should be convicted of murder.
She said portions of a secretly recorded ten-hour conversation between Mr Hutch and ex-Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall clearly showed the accused was “the man in charge”. Ms Murphy said the covert recordings show Mr Hutch had authority over the AK-47 rifles used in the attack and was seeking someone to assist in diffusing the aftermath.
Counsel also submitted that Mr Hutch was talking about the movement of the weapons at a crucial time in which they ultimately ended up in transit and seized by gardaí from IRA man Shane Rowan just two days later. Ms Murphy said there was “no denial or pushback” from Mr Hutch in the audio against implications that he was centrally involved in the Regency attack.
Counsel also submitted it “is apparent a plan is being formed as a way to hand over these three ‘yokes’,” she added. In the audio recording, Mr Hutch was heard telling Dowdall that “these three yokes we’re throw-in them up to them either way”, in what the prosecution has said is a reference to giving the three assault rifles used in the Regency Hotel attack to republicans in the north. The trial has heard that three AK-47 assault rifles were found in the boot of a car following “an intervention” by gardaí just a month after Mr Byrne was fatally shot in the Regency Hotel.
In the audio recording, Mr Hutch was heard telling Dowdall that “these three yokes we’re throw-in them up to them either way”, in what the prosecution has said is a reference to giving the three assault rifles used in the Regency Hotel attack to republicans in the north. Mr Hutch could also be heard saying in the audio: “There’s a present them three yokes” and that he wanted “to throw them up there to them as a present”.
Ms Murphy said Mr Hutch’s responses to Dowdall in the audio showed at worst a tacit acceptance of Mr Hutch’s central involvement in the Regency, but in truth it was almost an expression of pride in the choice of the weapons. She added that what isn’t in the audio is any denial.
The barrister referred to Gerard Hutch telling Dowdall in the audio clip: “Well he, he was on the telly there, Williams talkin and he was sayin, they came in with them and people looked at them and thought they were cops coz anyone with cop on would know immediately that cops don’t use them”.
She also referred to Dowdall saying in the audio “we never admitted that that was anything to do with yous at the Regency but obviously we did by giving them the yokes” and Mr Hutch replies “yeah he knows, yeah”.
Ms Murphy went on to say: “There is no reaction from Mr Hutch [in the audio] to deny what is being alleged and it points to an acknowledgment that he was part of the team at the Regency and it doesn’t demure from the fact that it would be a lie to say he never did the Regency”.
Counsel argued that it showed beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Hutch was one of the three men dressed in tactical gear at the Regency Hotel on the day and that he should be convicted of the offence of murder.
Referring to Dowdall, Ms Murphy said the prosecution accepted that the State’s witness was a man who had a “serious conviction” for a “disgusting” separate crime but this did not mean the judges could not believe his claim that the accused had confessed to the killing.
Jonathan Dowdall, a former co-accused of Mr Hutch who facilitated Mr Byrne’s murder and turned State’s evidence, has said that Mr Hutch told him in a park several days after the Regency attack, in or around Monday February 8th, 2016, that he and another man had shot Mr Byrne at the hotel.
The State’s case is that Mr Hutch had asked Dowdall to arrange a meeting with his provisional republican contacts to mediate or resolve the Hutch-Kinahan feud due to the threats against the accused’s family and friends.
The Special Criminal Court has viewed CCTV footage of what the State says is Mr Hutch making two separate journeys to Northern Ireland with Dowdall on February 20th and March 7th, 2016, just weeks after Mr Byrne was murdered.
Addressing the three judges today, Ms Murphy said that the ingredients of a criminal organisation must be proven and that it is a structured group with three or more people which is not randomly formed.
She referred to the senior garda who gave evidence during the trial and testified that the “Hutch Criminal Organisation” emanates from “intergenerational familial bonds and close family associations” in Dublin city centre and operates on a patriarchal system of loyalty based on monetary gains.
The trial continues on Thursday before Ms Justice Tara Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone, when the other defence counsel will give their closing speeches.