The trial of four men accused of abducting and assaulting Quinn Industrial Holdings executive Kevin Lunney has been delayed after a judge said it would be "undesirable and imprudent" to proceed on schedule due to escalating coronavirus numbers.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt made his remarks at the Special Criminal Court this morning, adding however that it was "absolutely our intention" for the trial to now proceed on February 1. He said the decision had been made in light of the "spike" in coronavirus numbers, which rose above 6,000 cases per day this week.
The case, which was in for mention this morning on disclosure matters, had been fixed for trial on January 11 at the non-jury court.
Luke O'Reilly (66), from Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan; Darren Redmond (25), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3; and Alan O'Brien (38) of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 1, are all charged with false imprisonment and assault causing serious harm to Mr Lunney (50) at Drumbrade, Ballinagh, Co Cavan on September 17, 2019. Another male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is also charged with the same offences at the same date and location.
Father-of-five Mr Lunney had his leg broken, was doused in bleach and had the letters QIH carved into his chest before he was dumped on a roadside.
Mr Justice Hunt said he had a phone call with the president of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine this morning and that "the position seems to be it would be undesirable and imprudent to proceed to start this case on schedule considering the public health situation".
The judge added that there would be an announcement on matters in front of the Central Criminal Court on Thursday.
The court had previously been told that there are over 50,000 documents involved in the case that needed to be digitally rendered and that there had been issues with disclosure.
In December, the three-judge court dismissed a bid to halt the trial, which is scheduled for 12-weeks, over a ruling expected from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on data retention.
Defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC, for the unnamed man, argued that the law on the retention and accessing of mobile phone data was in "a state of significant uncertainty" in Ireland and that the trial should not proceed until the matter was resolved.
However, Mr Justice Hunt said that it was not enough to justify an adjournment.
The judge also found the fact that a Renault Kangoo van went on fire while in the possession of gardaí was "immutable" and was also not a sufficient basis to adjourn.
One of the four men has complained to the Garda ombudsman alleging that DNA was planted on the van, allegedly used in the abduction, so it would not be made available to the defence.
It had been also unsuccessfully argued by defence counsel that the trial should not go on until the ombudsman's investigation is completed.
At this morning's hearing, Mr Justice Hunt fixed February 1 for the trial date and the case will appear for mention on January 11 for an update on disclosure.