We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. Click OK to use our website.

ECHR ruling on access to solicitor finds no rights violation

24 May 2019 / EU Print

No rights violated on lawyer access, ECHR ruling finds

A man who was restricted in his access to a solicitor during questioning by gardaí on suspicion of murder, did not suffer a violation of his right to a fair trial the European Court of Human Rights has ruled in Doyle v Ireland on May 23 2019.

In a six-one verdict, the court has found against applicant Barry Doyle, who was arrested in February 2009 in connection with the November 2008 killing of rugby player Shane Geoghegan in Limerick.

Doyle is currently serving a life sentence in Mountjoy and had taken his challenge to Strasbourg in an attempt to have his murder conviction overturned.

The Garryowen RFC player was killed in a case of mistaken identity at his house in Dooradoyle in Limerick on November 9, 2008.

Rights

After his arrest for questioning in February 2009, Doyle was taken to a garda station, informed of his rights and given access to a solicitor, with whom he consulted prior to the first police interview.

He was interviewed repeatedly and had access to a solicitor, both in person and by telephone.

In his fifteenth interview Doyle admitted the killing and gave details about what had happened. At the applicant’s request, one interview was stopped to enable him to consult further with his solicitor.

However, all of the interviews were conducted without the solicitor being physically present in the interview room.

In a Central Criminal Court retrial in February 2012, after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his first trial for murder, Doyle’s lawyers sought to have his discounted and said that he had been induced, threatened and denied access to legal advice.

Trial judge Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan dismissed this application and he was convicted of murder by a jury.

There were subsequent appeals to the Court of Appeal and to the Supreme Court in January 2017 where a 6-1 majority ruled against him.

The ECHR ruling has said that the right to be defended by a lawyer is a fundamental aspect of the right to a fair trial.

Admissions

The ruling points out that all three Irish courts hearing the case had found his admissions had not been brought about by inducement or threat.

The Supreme Court heard detailed discussion about the right of access to a solicitor during police questioning.

In July of 2017, Doyle brought his case to the ECHR and said the State had failed to provide him with a fair trial.

In a two-pronged ruling, the ECHR examined whether or not there were compelling reasons to justify a restriction on the right of access to a lawyer, and then examined the fairness of proceedings.

The ruling says that Doyle had been granted access to a lawyer after his arrest and before his first police interview.

After the first interview, he had been able to request access to his lawyer at any time though his counsel was not physically present during the interviews themselves.

General nature

Therefore, the restriction on his right of access to a lawyer had been of a general nature and had not been justified by compelling reasons.

On the overall fairness of the proceedings, the court found that Doyle had not been particularly vulnerable.

It said sound public-interest considerations had justified the prosecution for murder after the killing of an innocent victim as a result of mistaken identity because of a feud between criminal gangs.

Procedural safeguards were in place with all police interviews recorded on video and available to the judges and the jury.

Finally, the jury got careful instructions from the trial judge about the admissible evidence.

Fairness

The ECHR concluded that overall fairness had not been irretrievably prejudiced with no violation of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c).

The case was considered by Judge Angelika Nußberger (Germany), presiding; Judge Ganna Yudkivska (Ukraine); Judge André Potocki (France); Judge Síofra O’Leary (Ireland); Judge Mārtiņš Mits (Latvia); Judge Gabriele Kucsko-Stadlmayer (Austria); and Judge Lado Chanturia (Georgia).

Dissenting, Judge Yudkivska said Doyle’s rights had in fact been violated and his confession was obtained “following clear pressure and intimidation by police”.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland