IRA man who bought car used in the murder of prison officer hears outcome of appeal

Court Reporter

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Court Reporter

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Outcome of prison officer murder appeal heard

A "trusted" IRA member who purchased the car used in the murder of a Northern Irish prison officer David Black has lost an appeal against his conviction. 

Mr Black, a 52-year-old father of two, was shot dead on November 1st 2012. He was driving to work at Maghaberry prison when the incident occurred.

Vincent Banks (49), of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin 7, was convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court of membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on December 18th 2012.

At a previous trial, in 2014, he was cleared of withholding information related to the murder of Mr Black.

The court heard that after the killing, the PSNI established a forensic link between the shooting and a Toyota Camry, which was found further along the motorway, burnt out in a ditch.

Gardai learned that Banks had bought the car off a man in Tallaght. He had earlier bought a SIM card used solely to call the vendor of the car and later, when he signed the car's log-book, Banks used his left hand and signed the name Paul McCann, with an address on Rathgar Road in Dublin.

Jailing Banks for five years in October, 2017, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding at the three-judge court, said Banks was a "trusted member of an unlawful organisation, in the position to seek out and obtain in a surreptitious manner the vehicle used in the murder of Mr Black".

He unsuccessfully sought to appeal his conviction on grounds related to “procedural fairness”, his interviews with gardaí and the evidence from a Detective Chief Superintendent that in his belief  Banks was a member of the IRA. 

Upholding his conviction in the Court of Appeal yesterday, Saturday, Mr Justice John Edwards said Banks challenged the admissibility of his garda interviews on the basis that the drawing of inferences from his failure to answer material questions was not properly explained to him. 

However, Mr Justice Edwards said Banks had the benefit of access to legal advice and, while the explanation was not “perfect”, it was adequate. 

Mr Justice Edwards said he was satisfied the Special Criminal Court correctly applied the law in relation to the lawfulness of Banks' arrest.

He said arguments about belief evidence had been “repeatedly litigated” and an inability to cross-examine senior gardaí on materials grounding their beliefs did not imply an inability to cross-examine on any basis. 

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Marie Baker, said the court had not been disposed to uphold any of Banks’ arguments and the appeal was therefore dismissed.