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The Joe O’Reilly Conviction

Years and years ago, I was lucky enough to be burgled. I say lucky because I learned a great lesson about the nature of democracy as a result.

It was when I lived in Dublin. Somebody broke into the house in the middle of the night and stole one or two items and some money. The police came. They found the fingerprints of a known thief on the window. They arrested the thief, who swore he was never in that part of town in his life.

They charged him with the burglary, the case went to court before a jury and I was called as a witness. I can’t remember the name of the old judge, but I do remember him reading through the book of evidence, looking more and more troubled and finally sending the jury out of the room. Then he looked around the court before fixing the police with an unblinking basilisk stare.

According to this book of evidence, the defendant says he was never there in his life, yet his fingerprints were found on the outside of the window. This proves one of three things: either he has a bad memory, he’s a liar or the police are liars. It does not prove he was inside that house.

It gives rise to gross suspicion, but the day we start putting people in jail on the grounds of gross suspicion is the day we have a police state!

And, do you know something? He was right. I wanted to clap and cheer this old judge. Even though I was the victim of this thief’s crime, the police didn’t prove he was guilty. I’d have happily broken his legs, given half a chance, but he couldn’t go to jail, because there was a democracy to be protected. As simple as that.

It’s the same with the Joe O’Reilly case. I think he did it, but I don’t think the prosecution proved it. I think they piled up a load of facts and let the weight of evidence convince the jury.

That is not proof. That’s grounds for gross suspicion.

What does it mean when we start jailing people on the basis of gross suspicion? Ask the old judge.


22 replies on “The Joe O’Reilly Conviction”

I’ve felt the same way since I heard the verdict on the radio. I braced myself waiting for the newsreader to say the jury returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’, I had already imagined the clamour of the press baying for blood. Like you, I think he did it but my thoughts are not enough. I haven’t herd one piece of evidence that places O’Reilly in the house. Were the jury instructed to construe guilt from the lies O’Reilly told (assuming the mobile phone mast results are evidence of lies)? It’s all a little worrying, especially now that O’Reilly is appealing the verdict. I suspect there will be one or two more twists in this case and the state and the press may live to rue the day they pushed for the verdict based on flimsy evidence. Again, these are just my thoughts but the kernal of the matter is that there needs to be irrefutable proof of guilt before we can send a person to prison.

100% with you on this. Made me damn uneasy the way the guards drip fed the tabloids for months when they realised they’d nothing but circumstantial evidence to bring to court. The ‘probability’ of guilt is in danger of becoming the standard.

Does this verdict now mean that Mobile phone data will have to be accepted as proof of innocence? Take a for instance…

I’m a major drug lord, I want to bump off one of my opposition, I pay some skobe a hundred and give him a car and my mobile to drive around dublin for a half a day, telling him that’s it’s okay to ring his ma or my ma or his dog while he’s test driving your new car. Now I drive to Limerick, bump off one of the dundons or the McCarthy’s or some other skobe, get back to Dublin, get my phone and car back, swear to the guards that I had my phone on me all day long and that they now hafta believe the mobile phone data?
C’mon lets get real…..

Let’s get proof……

Real proof…….

The kind that means he won’t get out on appeal….

Conan: The cops in Ireland are a disgrace. This has been their practice for years.

Medbh: It’s important. Well done for reconsidering.

Flirty: Not only the phone evidence. All the rest of it too.

Dickler: Proof of innocence is a different thing to proof of guilt. A phone can’t prove you’re innocent because, as you say, it’s a simple matter to give it to somebody else for the day.

My point is that they didn’t prove – rigorously – that Joe O Reilly did it. That’s simply a fact. They relied on weight of evidence, and objectively that doesn’t meet the required standard.

I’m glad someone else out there thinks so, it was a media trial. I was gobsmacked, is he appealing I haven’t heard. I too think he may have done this awful deed but the trial was a travesty.

He is appealing the sentence as far as I know. As the trial progressed I was sure that O’Reilly’s defense would try to refute some of the evidence but that never materialised. Now an appeal has been launched surely on the basis that O’Reilly could not have received a fair trial in light of the media coverage. O’Reilly was, after all, found guilty of murder in spite of the fact that there is no evidence that places him in the room at the time when the murder took place, there is no murder weapon and no forensic evidence. All we know is that he seems like a bad man who cheated on his wife and probably did it. In my understanding “probably” shouldn’t be good enough unless it is beyond all reasonable doubt, but “probably” was enough for this jury. Were they influenced by the press? I think that’ll be his defense’s argument. If he couldn’t get a fair trial before it will be impossible for another jury to try him. Again, I think he did it, I infer from his lies that he has something to hide. I just thought the burden of proof was a little greater for the state.

A chnuimh: That’s it exactly. It isn’t whether we think he’s guilty (though most people do). It’s about the burden of proof.

As far as I can see, this is a clear sign that society is dumbing down and losing its critical faculties.

They can’t tell the difference between weight of evidence and proof. If I keep flinging statements at you, I’ll eventually wear you down.

What has happened to logic? Gone in a tide of txt spk.

I realised the “logic” had gone out of the case when they allowed the “look-a-like” car evidence to be shown to the jury. It now seems a guilty until proven innocent judicial mentality reigns.

While I respect (and share) your conviction that the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt should be met in all cases, and while I believe that in some cases that this standard isn’t reached but convictions are returned nonetheless, I cannot agree that this was such a case.

Obviously the prosecution stands or falls on the phone evidence. The phone evidence placed him in or around the house at the crucial time. If there is a potentially innocent explanation for this, he is entitled to the benefit of that innocent explanation. However, no such explanation was proffered.

While the defence was not obliged to provide that innocent explanation, the lies of the accused as to his whereabouts on the morning in question make it very difficult for the jury to entertain the possibility that if he was there, he was there for legitimate reasons. This is particularly so when coupled with the overwhelming evidence of motive and the evidence of opportunity. In reality, the only question they were then left with was whether the phone evidence was reliable.

The defence case was that he was in Broadstone bus depot, not that he was in Broadstone bus depot but that if he was not in Broadstone bus depot but in the Naul then he was there for legitimate reasons. The defence were not entitled to have their cake and eat it too.

The evidence came down to the alibi versus the phone evidence and the phone evidence was incredibly thorough and well corroborated. The alibi evidence was weak. In the circumstances, the case was actually a slam dunk for the prosecution and no jury could be criticised for believing there was no reasonable doubt.

As for the media intrusion, while unfortunate, they were entitled to report the case and for the most part they reported the facts. The jury were also cautioned by the trial judge on a number of occasions to ignore the reporting. There is no reason to believe the jurors didn’t respect their oaths.

The unease with circumstantial evidence is understandable. Standing alone none of the elements proved guilt but taken together they built up to form a web of coincidences that even the most suggestible person could not reconcile with an innocent explanation.

I think it would be very unfair to criticise the jury in this case. The guards also need to take a great deal of credit for an exceptionally thorough investigation.

Caoimhin: That’s one of the reasons people feel uneasy about the case, and I agree with you.

Yankee Doodle: Thanks for a well-thought-out contribution to the discussion. Obviously we have different views of the quality of evidence, but nevertheless, I’m always glad to get a reasoned response instead of knee-jerk replies.

Hi Guy’s
I have been researching Law for many years now. The problem is, not one of you here actually seems to have made the connections.
Ok , what am I talking about..Joe O’R was sucesfully convicted because he LIED UNDER OATH. They ask you to swear to tell the truth if you do not and get caught thats it, Game over. What would have happened if for example O’reilly said no I do not swear to tell the truth if I have the right to lie I’m gonna keep it thankyou very much.
They will then jail for “contempt right” well yes but only if he accepts it…LOL
can you believe it the police are just a corporation just like Mc donnalds I kidd yoou not So are the courts…Don’t believe me need proof…OK go to a site such as KOMPASS or dunn and bradsheet and look them up there you will have to pay a fee but you will see for yourself…

It seems your years of law research didn’t teach you much about logic. Lying under oath does not prove guilt. It shows you have someting to hide, which is an entirely different matter.

I don’t know how joe o’reilly was convicted on the evidence.From a legal perspective he will walk on appeal, on the technicality that the mobile phone records were obtained illegally ie 02 is not registered with the postal and telegraphs, its very black and white the phone records were obtained illegally, also the appeal court will have to give weight to the fact that there is no evidence that joe o’reilly arrived at the scene.

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