The Special Criminal Court: Practice and Procedure

Sandra Mulvey, General Manager, Ireland

June 14, 2019

A new title, The Special Criminal Court: Practice and Procedure, has been added to Irish Criminal Law.

Author Alice Harrison writes in her Preface to the new edition:

"The current Special Criminal Court was established in 1972 as an emergency measure in response to a unique set of circumstances then at play in Ireland. It would appear, however, that the court now has de-facto permanency in our criminal justice system; further, a second Special Criminal Court began to operate in 2016.

While the majority of trials in the Special Criminal Court continue to involve subversive activity, prosecution of organised crime in the court is increasing and a situation has now arisen where emergency powers have become normalised.

In any court such as this, there arises a tension between the interests of the State and the interests of the accused, between the need to ensure the security of the State and the right of every citizen to trial by jury. Discussion has focused on these two apparent extremes but—except for the Juries Act of 1929 which was never commenced—there has been little emphasis on other possible solutions such as protected juries or whether there are interim measures or legislative mechanisms which can reconcile issues arising in the Special Criminal Court such as, for example, the dual role of the court as arbiter of fact and of law.

My intention in writing this book is to assist legal practitioners in their navigation of the Special Criminal Court and to provide a wide range of material relevant to the practical considerations, procedural requirements and evidential issues which typically arise in the court. I have also tried to present the unique circumstances of the court in a way that is straight-forward and useful to the practitioner, but which also reflects its political context and rich jurisprudential history.

Some of the rulings in the Special Criminal Court have been ex tempore and not committed to writing. As such, in order to give the most comprehensive overview, there are some instances where I have relied upon transcripts of trials and newspaper sources in addition to reported and unreported case law. I have attempted to state the law as it stands on 22 January 2019 but I have noted, where possible, subsequent developments that are expected and which may be relevant to some details presented here.

I would like to thank Ms Justice Una Ní Raifeartaigh who was the Consultant Editor to this book from the outset and Mr Michael Bowman SC who shared the role at a later stage. They have been a constant source of advice, support and tireless enthusiasm throughout the writing process, dedicating countless hours of their time to sifting through my various drafts and sharing their erudition and wisdom. I am so grateful to both of them for always keeping their doors open to me; this book would not have been possible without them.

I am deeply indebted to my colleagues who gave generously of their precious time and extensive expertise and who offered comments, insights and answers to my many questions.

I especially want to thank Diarmaid McGuinness SC, Michael O’Donovan, David Staunton, David Thompson, and Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan and his staff.

I also wish to thank Ms Justice Tara Burns, Bernard Condon SC, Ríoghnach Corbett, James Dwyer SC, John Fitzgerald SC, Patrick Gageby SC, Paul Greene SC, Hugh Hartnett SC, Vincent Heneghan SC, Imelda Kelly, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, Ronan Kennedy, Mark Lynam, James McCullough, James McGuill, John Moher, Ronan Munro SC, Cathleen Noctor SC, Niall Nolan, Professor Eunan O’Halpin, Michael O’Higgins SC, Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, Garnet Orange SC, Ronan Prendergast, Robert Purcell, John Quirke, Philipp Rahn and Anne Rowland SC.

I am extremely thankful to those who provided valuable assistance by carefully proof-reading the text, including Patrick Conboy, James Cross, Orla Davoren, Carol Doherty, Simon Donagh, Conor Duff, Kate Egan, Alison Fynes, Matthew Holmes, Henry Kelly, Lauren Kierans, Ciara McCarthy, Louise Mitchell, Marc Murphy, James O’Brien, Liam O’Connell, Sonja O’Connor, Aoife O’Halloran, David Perry, Tom Power, Scott Reilly and Brian Storan. A particular thanks is due to Damien Grenham and the rest of the Bar Council library staff for going beyond the call of duty and assisting me with many different aspects of my work in writing the book.

I am grateful to the staff of Bloomsbury Professional for their patience, flexibility and excellent work in putting this book together. I especially wish to thank Amy Hayes, Sandra Mulvey, Sarah Sheehy, Jennifer Simpson, Tessa Robinson and Marie Armah-Kwantreng.

All errors and oversights are, of course, entirely my own.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the support, encouragement and guidance I have always received from Brendan Savage, Conall MacCarthy and particularly Shane Costelloe SC, who also assisted with the book. I would like to thank Professor Michael Doherty, as well as the students and staff, of Maynooth University.

I wish to express particular and sincere gratitude to Ms Justice O’Malley for writing the Foreword, for her kind words and for her uniquely valuable observations.

Above all, I would like to thank my family and friends with special thanks to Jack, Terri, Katy, Jamie and John for encouragement and unending support in my every endeavour and for always providing advice, distraction and inspiration when I needed it.

Alice Harrison BA LLB MPhil BL

The Law Library

The Four Courts

Dublin 7

20 March 2019"