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Closing stages in barrister threat trial

By Stephen Bourke

Closing arguments have begun in the trial of a convicted rapist accused of making death threats against the barristers who prosecuted him, and harassing his victim and former solicitor.

Michael Murray (50), formerly of Seafield Road, Killiney, Co Dublin, is charged with making a threat to kill to Dominic McGinn SC on November 16, 2014, and to Tony McGillicuddy BL on Feb 9, 2015 – the two barristers who prosecuted him in 2013 for rape.

He is also charged with harassing his victim by advertising her online as a prostitute in January and February 2015, and of doing the same to Mr McGinn and his own former defence solicitor.

He has pleaded not guilty to those five charges, but has admitted possessing the phone used to make the calls and place the ads.

Following the final defence witness this morning, Seán Gillane SC, prosecuting, began the prosecution’s closing arguments.

“It is simply inaccurate to suggest we are simply pawns in a chess game that Mr Murray is playing, because we are simply not. This trial is about allegations of serious wrongdoing. This isn’t be regarded as some sort of stratagem for Mr Murray to vent whatever spleen he has.

Murray had argued he had a “lawful excuse” for making the threats in order to force a trial to take place and elicit information from the complainants for grounds to appeal his rape conviction.

“It’s a proposition that, legally speaking, is also nonsense, and even if it wasn’t, it isn’t even true,” he said.

“Mr Murray in his first interview boxes clever. In his second interview he says ‘McGinn who?’ But the dam utterly breaks in and the bile and that anger flows, and thereafter it doesn’t stop.

“He caused distress, humiliation and agitation,” Mr Gillane said. “And he wallowed in it.”

“That he had some lawful reason doesn’t even arise and isn’t even true in his own account of it. ‘I intended to damage them’ — that’s what he wanted to do. He intended to shatter their privacy.”

He said they had heard the evidence of the woman Mr Murray is convicted of raping, and now accused of harassing by posting her phone number online in ads offering sexual services.

“It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to consider what strain this would have on her, in respect of strange men phoning,” Mr Gillane said.

“You don’t have to take it from him me – take it from him he is guilty of these offences but he hasn’t had the courage to simply say so,” he added.

“Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is a very emotive term and an accusation that a person is a rapist would understandably taint your view,” said Barry White SC, defending.

“The first mention in that book [of evidence] of the word ‘rape’ comes from Mr McGinn. In that rape trial Mr Murray was found guilty, as you’ve heard. Mr Murray appealed and the state counter-appealed. He was unsuccessful. The state was successful in having his sentence increased. As you have heard, that rankles with Mr Murray.”

“That six-letter word ‘rapist’ is out there and position directly at the man sitting behind me. You have to totally disregard it,” he said.

Mr White compared Murray to Hamlet, staging a play within a play in a bid to expose his uncle as his father’s killer: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

“He’d exhausted the appeals mechanism. A second appeal is possible, but you can’t bring that willy-nilly… you have to have a basis: newly-disclosed facts. That is what Mr Murray was doing – he told you so.”

Mr White said there seemed to be an inexplicable delay between the first call to Mr McGinn, and the seizure of the mobile phone.

“This is a phone call made on November 16, it’s a call to him, and to the guards, a suggestion that perhaps Mr McGinn’s life is in danger. What happens? You must ask yourself why nothing happens?”

The defence argument will continue tomorrow before Judge Karen O’Connor and a jury.

When the jury was brought out to hear the last defence witness yesterday Murray stood up and spoke out from the dock.

“There is an issue that has arisen,” he said. “I’ve been offered the names and addresses of the jury members.”

Mr White handed in a document  he said had been handed to him by the accused, and Judge Karen O’Connor sent the jury out.

When the trial resumed the jury heard the evidence of computer expert Colm Gallagher, who appeared for the defence.

He told Mr White he examined the data recovered from the Samsung phone seized from Mr Murray by prison officers over four days last month.

“There were four calls recorded on the device, which may have indicated activity on the device after the seizure.”

But he said the date attached to the logs was January 1, 2012.

“That’s the date that the device sets itself back to when the battery is removed, so it is not a reliable indicator of when calls were made,” he said.

Mr Gillane he said he agreed with the conclusions of the state’s phone expert Mr Tibbets regarding the phone data he had access to.

“That, judge, is the conclusion of the defence case,” said Mr White.

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