Áras Attracta applications to be ruled on Thursday

Wednesday 06 January 2016 15.05
Court told that material gathered by RTÉ was at the centre of the State's case
Court told that material gathered by RTÉ was at the centre of the State's case

Applications by prosecution and defence teams in the trials of five care workers charged with assault at Aras Attracta will be ruled upon next Thursday. 

The court case follows a report by the RTÉ Investigations Unit on care standards at the centre in Swinford, Co Mayo.

After two days of hearings in Castlebar, Judge Mary Devins said she wished to consider a range of issues relating to evidence being presented to the Court.

It followed an application by the State for two external hard drives to be taken into garda custody and sent to Dublin for analysis by garda IT experts.

Senior Counsel Patrick Reynolds told the Court that he believed the matters central to the proceedings were not affected by issues relating to the copying of files between the two drives.

However, he said he was seeking an adjournment until Thursday to allow for a detailed analysis of the files in question. 

Legal representatives for the five defendants subsequently made submissions that the trials be stopped and the cases thrown out. 

They argued that it was unsafe to proceed given that some evidence may have been excluded from the State and defence considerations. 

Counsel argued that if gardaí had made similar errors to those outlined in court today, proceedings would cease there and then.

Judge Devins said various issues had been raised.

There was a possibility that the Director of Public Prosecutions did not have all material relevant to the case.

She also wanted to consider Mr Reynolds' application for an adjournment and the submissions made by the five solicitors and barristers acting for the accused.

The Judge said she would decide on all these specific issues and give her ruling on Thursday morning. 

Earlier, Judge Devins asked Counsel for the State to consider the implications of incomplete evidence on proceedings. 

She made her comments after hearing more detail this afternoon about the master hard drive containing footage filmed by RTÉ and a copy of that drive supplied to gardaí by the broadcaster.

It emerged today that six video files did not transfer from the master drive to the copy.

The editor of the RTÉ Investigations Unit told the court that he could not explain how this happened.

Paul Maguire said he had checked the number of files and folders as well as the amount of data on both discs when the copy was created in December 2014.

He said these matched exactly in all respects.

He told Judge Devins this afternoon that a review of both discs today found that six files, recorded on 5 and 6 November 2014, had not been transferred.

He said these videos contained nothing of relevance to the investigation into care standards at Áras Attracta.

After hearing evidence and cross examination, Judge Devins said it was important for all sides to take a step back and remember that the proceedings were not a prosecution by RTÉ but one taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions, based on evidence totally garnered by the broadcaster.

It emerged yesterday that six of the files recorded during the RTÉ inquiry at Áras Attracta were deleted during the undercover investigation.

Legal representatives sought access to the master hard drive in light of that and compared it with the evidential drive put forward by the State this morning.

Judge Devins said the DPP had directed prosecutions without having knowledge that six of the files filmed by a hidden camera had been deleted by RTÉ and without sight or knowledge that six other video files had not been copied onto a disc provided to the State.

Judge Devins said this meant that the DPP made a direction based on incomplete evidence.

In light of this, she asked Counsel for the State, Patrick Reynolds, if he needed time to consider and view the non-copied files or if he needed to consider referring the matter back to the DPP.

Proceedings have adjourned for the State to consider the matter.

RTÉ video footage questioned in Áras Attracta trial

Legal representatives for the five care workers accused of assault at Áras Attracta residential centre in Co Mayo raised questions earlier as to whether the trials should proceed.

In submissions at Castlebar District Court, Judge Mary Devins was told there were concerns as to whether a hard drive containing copied video footage was an exact replica of one held by RTÉ.

The State submitted the hard drive, supplied by the broadcaster, as its first item of evidence in the trial yesterday.

Overnight RTÉ gave defence teams access to its master hard drive of video footage gathered at the residential centre. When this was examined, it emerged that it contained a number of files that were not on a replica drive presented by the prosecution. 

Solicitor for one of the care workers, Gearoid Geraghty, said that the integrity of the evidence appeared to be compromised beyond redemption.

He said there was no independent log of what files had been deleted and that the problems went to the very centre of the evidence gathering process.

Yesterday, the Court heard that the material gathered by RTÉ was at the centre of the State's case against the care workers.

Mr Geraghty also raised concerns about a log provided by the prosecution, stating that no recordings were made with a hidden camera in Bungalow 3 at Áras Attracta on 14 November 2014.

He pointed out that the State had charged his client with an alleged assault on that date.

Mr Geraghty said in light of the discrepancies that had emerged, he felt to proceed with the trial would lead to a real or perceived injustice.

Solicitor Peter Flynn also told Judge Devins he was concerned as his client also faced charges in connection with an assault alleged to have taken place on 14 November.

Defence legal teams have applied for the first exhibit not to be admitted in the case.

Counsel for the State Patrick Reynolds has submitted two sets of logs to the Judge and to defence legal teams.

These detail the contents on two external hard drives; one containing all the footage gathered by a fixed camera placed in Aras Attracta by RTÉ, the other containing  a copy of the material in question.

Mr Maguire, has been outlining an examination he carried out on both drives this afternoon.

During the adjournment Mr Maguire and a Garda set up two laptops. Mr Maguire connected his laptop to the master drive, the Garda connected his to the evidential drive.

Screen grabs of the contents were made and printed for the court.

Mr Maguire told the court that the comparison showed that on the folder for 5 November 2014, the master has files listed 1 - 85,

On the evidential drive, files start at Number 4 and run to 85.

Files 1,2 and 3 are not on the evidential drive

Similarly on 6 November, files on the master disc run 1 - 82. On the other drive for that day, files run from 4 - 82. Files 1, 2 and 3 are not on the drive provided by the State as evidence.

Mr Maguire said there was nothing of significance on the files in question.

He said he could offer no explanation as to why the files did not transfer to the drive requested by the State.

He also told the court that it was "factually incorrect" to say that files had been deleted. In fact, he said they did not transfer to the drive.

Mr Maguire said that when he made the copy of the Master drive on 2 December 2014, he had checked that both drives contained the same number of files and folders and used the same volume of data.

He said in all respects, the drives "matched up".

He said he could offer no explanation as to why there may have been a technical glitch in the transfer process.