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22 Jan 2022

Offaly drugs trial collapses after 'prejudicial' garda evidence

Offaly drugs trial collapses after 'prejudicial' garda evidence

THE trial of a man accused of heroin possession in Offaly collapsed on Friday because of evidence given by a garda.

Maurice Kiernan, a 28-year-old with an address at Killane Drive, Edenderry, denied possession of diamorphine, which is commonly known as heroin, at School Lane in Edenderry on March 16, 2020.

Mr Kiernan also denied having the drug for sale or supply to others when he was arraigned on Friday morning.

Shortly before lunch defence counsel Suzanne Dooner applied for the jury to be discharged after one of the garda witnesses gave evidence he had been called to the scene of the alleged offence because the accused “possibly had drugs on him”.

Ms Dooner immediately said she would have a submission to make in the absence of the jury and when the jurors had left, she told Judge Keenan Johnson that what had been said by the garda was highly prejudicial.

After deliberating over the lunch break, Ms Dooner repeated her application for the jury to be discharged and Kevin White, BL, prosecuting, said he would not be opposing it.

Judge Johnson then said he would be discharging the jury and described what had happened as “a disaster”.

Earlier, when he opened the trial, Mr White, instructed by Sandra Mahon, Offaly state solicitor, told the jury they would be hearing evidence that gardai driving behind a Ford Fiesta saw a front seat passenger throw something out of the car window.

Garda Alan Doherty gave evidence of going out in a marked patrol car with Garda Ciaran O'Mahony following a report of a car acting suspiciously.

They went to Killane Drive and at 2.40pm saw a car being driven by Lisa Kiernan, who the court was told was the wife of the accused.

The car, which also had a front seat passenger, was coming out of the estate and Garda O'Mahony, who was driving, turned the patrol car to follow it as it entered School Lane.

Garda Doherty said the car stopped on the road at Derry Rovers soccer club and he saw a hand stretched out from the passenger window with an item in it.

He said the item was then thrown over a fence towards the Derry Rovers pitch.

Garda O'Mahony then activated the blue lights of the patrol car and when the other car was pulled over Garda Doherty spoke to Ms Kiernan and noted that there were also children in the back.

The garda said another officer, Detective Garda Joe Bradley, then arrived and Mr Kiernan got out of the car but continued to look nervously at Garda O'Mahony as he walked towards the soccer club.

Garda Doherty added that Garda O'Mahony then came back with a package he had recovered.

Cross-examined by Ms Dooner (instructed by Thomasina Connell Solicitors), Garda Doherty said he could not describe the item which had been recovered and agreed he had not mentioned its colour or size.

The next witness for the State was Garda O'Mahony and his evidence was cut short when he stated that the accused was in a car at Killane Drive and Detective Garda Bradley had told him to go there because the man “possibly had drugs on him”.

When he agreed that the jury should be discharged, Judge Johnson said he was also annoyed that valuable court time had been used on the case.

He was critical of the fact that photographs presented to the jury had been taken some 18 months after the incident instead of at the time.

A garda had given evidence of taking photographs at School Lane and the soccer club on October 31 last and they were used to explain the evidence to the jury.

Judge Johnson said even at its highest, the jury were still going to have a doubt about where the package came from and no forensic evidence had been presented.

He said that if there was a retrial he would recuse himself and he would take a dim view if the case was returned.

Mr White said he would relay those concerns to the DPP.

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