Key witness who failed to appear in Aaron Brady trial arrested

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Alison O’Riordan

A key witness who failed to appear in court to give evidence in the capital murder trial of Aaron Brady has been arrested and will face trial for contempt of court.

Aaron Brady was found guilty of the capital murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe by an 11 to one majority jury verdict at the Central Criminal Court on August 11th. The 29-year-old with a last address at New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh is expected to be sentenced to the mandatory term for capital murder of life imprisonment with a minimum time served of 40 years on October 14th. Brady was also convicted of involvement in the robbery of €7,000 at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgen, Co Louth on January 25th, 2013.

Brendan Grehan SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), this morning told Mr Justice Michael White that a bench warrant had been issued for Colin Hoey by the Central Criminal Court for failing to come to court to give evidence during the trial of Aaron Brady. The court heard that the alleged offence is punishable by imprisonment, fine or both.

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During hearings at Brady's trial Detective Inspector Mark Phillips of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation said that Mr Hoey was a witness of "some significance" who had provided an alibi for Brady but had later withdrawn that alibi.

Sergeant Paul Gill today gave evidence that he had served the original witness order on Mr Hoey at St Malachi's GAA football grounds in Dundalk, Co Louth on April 30th, 2019, which required him to give evidence at Brady's trial on October 8th last year. Mr Hoey accepted service of it, he said. The court heard that Brady's trial did not proceed on October 8th, 2019 and eventually commenced on January 27th, 2020.

Detective Garda Padraic O'Reilly testified that he had made contact with Mr Hoey to secure his attendance at the Brady trial. The witness said he called to the home of Mr Hoey at O'Neill Estate, Cregganduff, Co Armagh on the afternoon of March 3rd, 2020 and informed him that he was required to attend The Criminal Courts of Justice the following day at 11am and if he did not show up a bench warrant would be issued. Det Gda O'Reilly said Mr Hoey told him to contact his solicitor and he requested Mr Hoey to contact him later that day to let him know if he would be attending court the next day. "I did not receive any contact from him," said the witness.

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Det Gda O'Reilly said that court did not start at 11am on March 4th and in these circumstances Detective Inspector Mark Phillips and Detective Garda Jim McGovern were present in the building of The Criminal Courts of Justice in case Mr Hoey showed up. The witness said that Mr Hoey did not attend court that day.

The witness agreed with Mr Grehan that trial judge Mr Justice White had issued a bench warrant on March 5th, 2020 and attempts were made by gardai to execute the warrant after this date. Mr Hoey continued to reside in Armagh and occasionally came to this jurisdiction for work and other purposes, said the lawyer.

As a result of the bench warrant, Detective Inspector Martin Beggy contacted the home of Mr Hoey and spoke to his father Declan Hoey to get his son to attend Dundalk Garda Station and have the warrant executed, said Mr Grehan. Det Gda O'Reilly agreed with counsel that Declan Hoey said his son did not want anything to do with the Brady case and did not want to get involved. Det Insp Beggy told Declan Hoey that the warrant would remain in existence regardless of the outcome of the trial, said Mr Grehan.

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Det Gda O'Reilly said solicitor Danny McNamee, for Mr Hoey, made contact with gardai last week and told them that his client wished to present himself for the execution of the warrant. The accused man presented himself outside the precincts of the court this morning and the warrant was executed, he said.

The witness agreed with Mr Grehan that while Mr Hoey presented himself at The Criminal Courts of Justice today, he continues to reside outside the jurisdiction and had significant evidence to give at Brady's trial if he had attended.

Det Gda O'Reilly agreed with defence counsel, Niall Storan BL, that Mr Hoey continues to reside outside the jurisdiction but has permission to reside at the home of his partner's parents in Dundalk. The witness said he was satisfied that gardai would be able to contact the father-of-two on his mobile phone and noted that the defendant is prepared to surrender his Irish passport.

Mr Grehan told Mr Justice White that the principal factor was the contempt of court by Mr Hoey, which is punishable by imprisonment, fine or both. The barrister pointed out that the court can conduct a summary trial at the High Court if the matter is contested.

The judge granted bail to Mr Hoey for the duration of the contempt proceedings as well as legal aid to cover senior and junior counsel in his case. The bail conditions include that Mr Hoey must enter his own bond of €2,000; surrender his Irish passport within 24 hours and not apply for any duplicate passport or travel documents; reside at his partner's parents house in Dundalk for the duration of the proceedings; sign on daily at Dundalk Garda Station; provide a mobile phone number to gardai and keep it on at all times so he can be contacted by gardai.

Mr Justice White warned Mr Hoey not to "mess" with the bail conditions as the consequences would be grave. The matter was put in for November 24th, when it is expected that the court will deal with submissions from the defence as to the High Court's jurisdiction.

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