Gilligan wins court battle

Crime boss John Gilligan today won his legal battle to stop the Special Criminal Court from confiscating €17m of his assets.

The Supreme Court said the order made after Gilligan's conviction and sentence for possessing and importing 20,000kg of cannabis resin into this country was null and void.

The five judge court in an unanimous decision dismissed an appeal by the State and affirmed the High Court decision of two years ago that the Special Criminal Court did not have jurisdiction to make such a confiscation order.

"As the Special Criminal Court had no jurisdiction to make an order , the purported order was null and void," Ms Justice Susan Denham said.

Gilligan, aged 54, who is serving a 20 year sentence after being convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court was not in court for the landmark judgment.

The confiscation order was made in 2002 after Gilligan was jailed for 28 years for possessing and importing some 20,000kg of cannabis resin into Ireland over a two year period. The jail term was later reduced on appeal to 20 years.

The Special Criminal Court said Gilligan had benefited from his drug trafficking activities to the extent of €17m and made the confiscation order under the provisions of Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, requiring Gilligan to pay the €17m within twelve months.

Gilligan brought proceedings in the High Court seeking a declaration that the Special Criminal Court had no jurisidction to make the order.

The High Court held that the Special Criminal Court did not have jurisdiction to make a determination under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.

Ms Justice Denham said the Attorney General and DPP had appealed against the determination of the High Court on the grounds that the High Court judge had erred in law in finding that the power to make a determination and a confiscation order following conviction was not sufficiently ancillary to the trial of offences to come within the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court.

Ms Justice Denham said she was satisfied the High Court judge was correct in law. She affirmed the decision of the High Court and said the Special Criminal Court is a unique and special court envisaged under the Constitution.

A significant jurisdiction such as bail, should be and has been expressly provided for by legislation, the Judge said and a "significant ancillary jurisdiction" such as is created by Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act should be expressly stated to apply to the Special Criminal Court if it is so intended.

Ms Justice Denham said she was satisfied the Special Criminal Court does not have jurisdiction to make orders pursuant of Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.

Many of Gilligan's assets remain frozen under an order secured some years ago by the Criminal Assets Bureau in separate proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996.

After a lengthy trial which began in late 2000, the Special Criminal Court cleared Gilligan in 2001 of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin in June 1996 and also acquitted him of firearms charges.

Gilligan was convicted of possession of an estimated 20,000 kilograms of cannabis resin over a two year period and was jailed for 28 years which was later reduced on appeal to 20 years.

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