'Fat' Freddie Thompson's lawyers say lack of CCTV records means conviction should be overturned

'Fat' Freddie Thompson's Lawyers Say Lack Of Cctv Records Means Conviction Should Be Overturned
Lawyers for gangland criminal 'Fat' Freddie Thompson (above) have argued that his conviction for the murder of David 'Daithí' Douglas in Dublin in 2016 should be overturned due to the lack of records on how he was identified by gardaí from CCTV footage. Photo: Collins
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Paul Neilan

Lawyers for gangland criminal 'Fat' Freddie Thompson have argued that his conviction for the murder of David 'Daithí' Douglas in Dublin in 2016 should be overturned due to the lack of records on how he was identified by gardaí from CCTV footage.

Mr Douglas (55), a father of one, was shot six times as he had lunch at a counter in his partner’s shop, 'Shoestown', on Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 8, on July 1st, 2016. A semi-automatic pistol with its serial number removed was found next to his head.


Thompson (42) of Loreto Road, Maryland, Dublin 8, had pleaded not guilty to his involvement in the murder of Mr Douglas but was jailed for life at the Special Criminal Court in August, 2018.

In sentencing Thompson, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said this was an execution involving "intricate advanced planning and coordination". The judge pointed out that the prosecution did not suggest that Thompson was the person who fired the shots, but that he was one of the people involved.

Specifically, Thompson had been driving a Ford Fiesta that was involved in the murder plot. The Fiesta was seen interacting with other vehicles and individuals involved in the plot on the morning before the shooting. It also drove past 'Shoestown' four minutes before the shooting, in what Justice Hunt said was a "final check" before the gunman arrived to carry out the "planned execution".


At the Court of Appeal on Friday, John D Fitzgerald SC, for Thompson, said the grounds of appeal against his client's conviction related to CCTV identifying Thompson driving the Fiesta at White Swan Industrial Estate at 10.48am on the day of the shooting.


Mr Fitzgerald said the State's case was a circumstantial one, with one strand being the CCTV identification made by two gardaí relating to Thompson driving the Fiesta in convoy with a Mercedes-Benz, known in the trial as "the murder car", a Suzuki Swift, which was the ultimate getaway car, and a burned out Mitsubishi Mirage.

Mr Fitzgerald said four CCTV montages were used in the trial tracking the movements of the convoy throughout the day around Dublin. They traced Thompson and his associates to and from the scene, culminating in the group going to Little Caesar's restaurant off Grafton Street in Dublin city centre at around 8pm.

The barrister said that the trial had allowed into evidence the four CCTV excerpts that had been objected to by the defence on grounds of procedure and the quality of the images.

The barrister said no record or notes of the procedure around the Garda identification had been taken, and therefore it was not possible to test the validity of the identification, which he said was a "very important part of the State's case".


No record kept

"There was no record kept, of anything," said Mr Fitzgerald, who added that one identifying Garda knew Thompson was a suspect in the murder before he viewed the CCTV clips.

"There were no procedures in place and no training in how to show footage to Garda witnesses," said Mr Fitzgerald.

The barrister said UK authorities had put a code in place in law that police officers had to record what they were told before viewing CCTV, by whom and in what form they had been asked to view footage and what arrangements had been made regarding times viewed. He added that any expression of doubt regarding the quality of image or the identification from the viewer was also recorded by UK authorities.

Mr Fitzgerald said the procedures in the UK were adopted so that engagement and cross-examination testing the reliability of any assertion of identification could be possible which was not possible in the case of his client.


Mr Justice John Edwards noted that the Special Criminal Court said that even without any recognition evidence they were satisfied that Thompson should be convicted of the murder. "They were satisfied they had sufficient evidence in any event to convict," said Mr Justice Edwards.

The barrister said that Garda witnesses cross-examined who "repeatedly said 'I don't know'" regarding procedures due to the lack of contemporaneous notes taken were therefore "not available" witnesses to the defence.


Mr Justice George Birmingham said whatever breach in procedure regarding CCTV was claimed to have occurred in Thompson's trial, it was still referring to "the conduct of a neighbouring jurisdiction which never applied here".

Mr Fitzgerald said the same logic applied regarding best practice when dealing with exclusionary rules on evidence admissibility, adding that "the logic is the same, and the evidence has to be tested by cross-examination".


"Here, it is difficult to cross-examine and shake a witness on it and if there is no record, counsel is simply left searching. It's not complicated. Simply keep a record. It doesn't seem a lot to ask," said Mr Fitzgerald.

Sean Gillane SC, for the State, said the quality of the CCTV footage clips was not an issue as they had been both blown up and played in slow motion at the trial. Mr Gillane said footage of the convoy's movements began at 9.50am and ended at 8pm on the day of the "execution-style" shooting.

Mr Gillane said 160 sources of CCTV footage had been harvested and the "killer car" could be seen moving into position at the time of the murder before travelling for the meeting at Little Caesar's. Mr Gillane said the CCTV had to be of a sufficient standard "so that the trier of fact can make a fair assessment of it and look at it numerous times" which the Special Criminal Court had done.

Regarding the UK procedures on viewing CCTV, Mr Gillane said the code utilised "doesn't apply here" and even if they had not been adhered to "it does not lead to the automatic expulsion of evidence".

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The barrister said the two identifying gardaí viewed footage separately without any suggestion put to them "good, bad or indifferent".

Mr Gillane said it had been disclosed to the defence that one identifying Garda knew Thompson was a suspect in the murder before viewing the CCTV. "The defence says they were somehow deprived of cross-examination. It cannot be the law that because someone knows someone [Thompson] is in the mix that they are precluded from examination of footage," said Mr Gillane.

He said the case had been a "painstaking" one regarding CCTV but that "even without it, the conviction is a safe and satisfactory one".

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would reserve its judgement in the appeal.

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