Colin Duffy Acquitted of all Charges

Peter Corrigan Colin Duffy

Colin Duffy was today acquitted of all charges after a decade long legal battle.

Our Mr Peter Corrigan acted for Mr Colin Duffy, and Mr Darragh Mackin acted for Mr Alex McCrory (co accused).

Peter Corrigan Colin Duffy

This case was was the first of its kind to challenge the authenticity of digital evidence and will have widespread ramifications for other digital evidence based prosecutions, and those cases to which involve evidence gathered by the Security Services / MI5 and the NCA.

Five years after the non-jury trial commenced, Mr Justice O’Hara returned ‘not guilty’ verdicts against Colin Duffy and Henry Fitzsimons.

As he delivered his judgement at Belfast Crown Court, the senior judge ruled that covert recordings which formed the heart of the Crown’s case did not meet the standard to secure convictions.

It was alleged that three men (Duffy, McCrory and Fitzsimmons) were arrested following a gun attack on the Crumlin Road area of north Belfast in December 2013.

The day after the shooting, a total of 14 covert devices secretly recorded a conversation between three men in Lurgan Park. It later became clear that the covert operation was being orchestrated by The Security Services / MI5.

The discussion concerned the gun attack which took place the night before as well as future operations. 

It was the prosecution’s case that Mr Fitzsimons and Mr Duffy were two of the three men recorded and that the names ‘Collie’ and ‘Harry’ could be heard on the audio.

During the trial, several experts were called to give evidence about the audio recordings.

As he gave his ruling on Thursday, the judge said it would be “unsafe” to rely on his own impression of the audio evidence given the “clear warnings” from the experts for both the prosecution and defence.

“In light of this conclusion I cannot say that I am satisfied to the requisite standard that the audio evidence proves that either Fitzsimons or Duffy was in the lane in Lurgan Park on the afternoon of the 6th of December, 2013,” Mr Justice O’Hara said.

“The reasonable and legitimate suspicions raised about their presence and their intent from other evidence are not enough to form the basis of a conviction of either of them.

“In these circumstances, I find both defendants not guilty on all charges.”

This case involved the first challenge of its kind to digital evidence and the authenticity of the data to which MI5 sought to rely on to prove the records in question.

The full ruling can be read here.

The ruling acquitting Alex McCrory on no case to answer can be read here.

The voir dire ruling excluding the audio attribution evidence can be read here.

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