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jailing the wrong man?

On thursday 11th October 2007,in Limerick Circuit Court,after 35 minutes of deliberation, a jury found Roy Behan (28) of Cherrydale Park, Dublin Road, Limerick was found guilty of perjury during Liam Keane's murder trial in 2003.

Keane was charged with the murder of Eric Leamy (19) who died in 2001.

After a number of witnesses developed what was described as collective amnesia resulting in the collapse of the trial, Keane walked free with his constitutional presumption of innocence intact and gave an infamous two fingered salute to waiting photographers.

Roy Behan was present and witnessed Leamy being stabbed. He accompanied his best friend to the hospital and -unfortunately for him- told gardai that Liam Keane stabbed Leamy and signed a memo to that effect. He also gave a statement later that day.

Following a two-day trial this week, it took the jury 35 minutes to find Behan guilty of lying under oath during the murder trial.

The jury also heard claims that two leading members of the Keane gang called to Roy Behan's home and offered him IR£30,000 as an inducement not to testify in Liam Keane's trial.

Brother of Eric Leamy, John Paul, said he spoke to Roy Behan who told him that Kieran Keane (Liam's uncle) warned him if he made a statement: "I will kill you; I will take you away in the boot of a car."

Roy Behan also told John Paul that Kieran Keane had a handgun in his right hand during the brief conversation.

On October 31, 2003, while on his way to Dublin for the court case, when asked what he was going to do by Geraldine Leamy, Roy Behan replied: "What can I do? I have to protect my girlfriend, my kid and my family. I can't give evidence."

The prosecution of a frightened witness who fears the local crimonal gangs more than 5 years in jail may well prove a pyrrhic victory for the Gardai.Roy Behan fears for his life and that of his family more than the threat of 5 years in jail.That is the only message that this debacle gives out.

Witnesses of serious crime or murders by the ruthless criminal gangs who operate freely in the state, will give pause in the future before making statements to the police.

Dont phone 999-if you value your life!

ONE of the main witnesses in the case of a man who stabbed his friend to death after a drunken New Year's Eve party had to flee the country after threats to his life.

Mark Doyle left Ireland after being warned he would be killed if he gave evidence in the trial of Karl Breen, 27, who was convicted yesterday of the manslaughter of Martin McLaughlin at Jury's Inn, Croke Park on 1 January 2006.

Breen admitted stabbing the 21-year-old three times but denied murder. He was found guilty of manslaughter and will be back in court on Wednesday to receive a date for the McLaughlin family's victim impact statement.

The victim's father, Martin senior, said after yesterday's verdict: "Martin was a quiet fellow who had just turned 21.

We're not coping very well at the minute; we're doing the best we can." He added that the family would have to accept the court's decision. "That's the law and that's what has to be done."

As one of the state's key witnesses, Mark Doyle endured 18 months of threats and intimidation aimed at preventing him from testifying. His home in Clondalkin, Dublin, was shot at twice and he was warned he would be murdered if he gave evidence in court. There is no suggestion that Breen was involved in any incident.

The last shooting incident happened just two days before the case began and Doyle received regular phone calls and text messages from unknown people warning him to leave the country. Graffiti appeared on walls in Clondalkin mentioning Doyle. The innocent Doyle was in fear of his life and has now left the country; he is thought to be in Spain.

Doyle and Karl Breen were friends and Breen sent Doyle a text message while Martin McLaughlin was in hospital fighting for his life. Breen labelled McLaughlin's girlfriend Elaine Fagan a "rat" and blamed her for starting the fight.

The court heard that a large amount of alcohol had been consumed on the night of the killing. Breen and McLaughlin were captured on a CCTV camera hugging shortly before the fatal fight broke out.

The written statement given by Doyle to gardai was read into evidence during the case.

He described receiving phone calls from Breen but said: "I told him to f*** off, I didn't want to talk to him".

Gardai investigated several incidents of witness intimidation in the McLaughlin murder case and several witnesses' cars were burnt out in the weeks before the trial got under way at the Central Criminal Court.

Gardai took the intimidation so seriously that armed officers regularly patrolled outside the homes of some of those who were due to give evidence.

It took the jury five-and-ahalf hours to reach their verdict, having stayed overnight in a hotel on Friday, and they returned to Judge Kevin O'Higgins several times with questions about the case . . .including a request to review the footage of Breen and McLaughlin hugging just minutes before the stabbing.

When the verdict was announced, Breen's girlfriend, who is pregnant, clasped her hands to her face. Breen looked at the jury and nodded slowly several times. No-one from Breen's family attended the trial and they were not present for the judgement.

Karl Breen has 92 previous convictions for minor offences such as public order offences and road traffic incidents, and is well-known to gardai across west Dublin.

He was once described by a judge as "brutal, mean and nasty" after he was convicted of being one of the key organisers in a dog-fighting ring. He was arrested after gardai raided a barn at Robertstown, Co Kildare, in October 2003. Gardai found two pitbull terriers that were badly injured and emaciated. Eleven people who attended the fight were arrested. A special ring had been built and carpets put down to give the animals a better grip while fighting.

A judge told Breen that his presence at the dog fight "was not an act of innocence but by arrangement. It was not a minor offence in my view. It is a mean and nasty offence where innocent animals are used for a purpose never designed for them".

The jury in the case found him guilty of two acts of animal cruelty and he was given a nine-month prison sentence, which was suspended on condition that he pay 5,000 to the ISPCA.

36 thousand convicted gangsters still roaming the country.!! Surreal.

By Michael Brennan Political Correspondent
Thursday December 06 2007

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has admitted that action needs to be taken to deal with the situation in which some 36,000 people are said to be evading bench warrants for their arrest.

The scandal was highlighted in a number of recent serious crimes, including the house party shooting of Donna Cleary, whose suspected killer was the subject of a bench warrant.

During leader's questions in the Dail yesterday, Mr Ahern accepted that the system needed to be tightened up.

However, he said he found it hard to imagine that there were 36,000 outstanding bench warrants, which are issued by judges when a defendant or witness fails to turn up in court.

"While I do not know the total figure for people who have evaded the system, I imagine it is small," he said.

Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore said the figure of 36,000 had been obtained from the garda computer system on November 25. He added that there were 111,453 outstanding warrants in total, which was "equivalent to the population of a large five seat constituency".

This included 4,000 committal warrants issued by judges to allow gardai arrest convicted offenders who should be in prison, he said.

"I would like an explanation as to why these people are not being arrested."

Mr Ahern rejected the suggestion that a significant number of people never turned up in court on foot of bench warrants.

"Some of the cases would relate to people for whom a warrant was issued and they either forgot about it or were sick," he said.

In many cases, those with outstanding bench warrants are arrested for another offence or their offence related to the failure to pay a court fine, he added.

He also rejected a suggestion by the Labour party that social welfare offices notify gardai when a person with an outstanding bench warrant turns up to collect a payment.

He said debt collectors were being used to retrieve court fines under a pilot project, and that the Fines Bill -- before the Dail -- would further reduce pressure on the system by allowing people to pay fines in instalments.

- Michael Brennan Political Correspondent