A LIMERICK man, found guilty of kidnapping of a post office mistress’ son and his friend, is now facing a retrial following a successful appeal.
Zachary Coughlan Ryan (38) of Brennan’s Row, Catherine Place, pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Stephen Cusack (19) and Niall Reddan (21) at Caisleann na hAbhainn, Castletroy, on August 19, 2012 and demanding a €500,000 ransom for their release.
He was found guilty by a jury after a trial at Limerick Circuit Court and was sentenced to eight years and three months in jail by Mr Justice Carroll Moran.
He appealed the conviction on a number of grounds related to an “unfortunate” comment made before the jury by a prosecution witness that the then accused (Ryan) had previously been in jail twice.
Throughout his 14-day trial in October 2013, Coughlan Ryan maintained his “absolute innocence” even up to the date of his sentence in January 2014. He was taken to a maximum security prison to begin his sentence, having already spent a total of 19 years in custody.
Coughlan Ryan, another man and a 17-year-old teenager had been accused of what was described as an “amateurish heist” when they captured the two boys and held them at knife and gun point.
One of the teenagers was released to deliver a €500,000 ransom demand while his companion was held at gunpoint in a field on the outskirts of the city.
Zachary Coughlan Ryan was arrested some weeks later.
His defence counsel, the late Mr Brendan NIx, SC, told the court that his client “maintained his absolute innocence”, and always claimed that he didn’t commit the crime he was convicted of.
Challenging the conviction on a number of grounds at the Court of Appeal last week, his legal team maintained that the conviction should be quashed after a prosecution witness said in front of the jury that their client had been in prison twice before.
Allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said that Court of Appeal was satisfied that the comment was in effect prejudicial and created the risk that the jury approached their deliberations on the basis that Coughlan Ryan was not of good character.
He said that the jury should have been discharged at that point.
The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction and, on Thursday last, ordered a retrial.