Sunday, 30 April 2006

Sunday Tribune
I'm paying for Gilligan and Dutchy, claims lawyer
Controversial lawyer Giovanni di Stefano says he is "nancially supporting crime bosses JohnGilliganandPatrick Holland
John Burke Crime Correspondent
THE lawyer representing former crime boss John Gilligan has said that he is personally funding the druggang leader's legal case against the State, in a bid to further reduce his sentence for drug possession.

Italian-born lawyer Giovanni di Stefano also said that he has personally given money to support Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland, a key member of the Gilligan gang, who was released from jail earlier this month.

Both men were major criminal figures up to the 1996 murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin, after which a garda crackdown led to the Gilligan gang's destruction. The lawyer said that 68-year-old Holland is now living with relatives in Dublin and suggested that he would be likely to apply for an old-age pension.

Di Stefano, who himself has been the focus of intense publicity and who is considered to be highly effective in pleading for his clients, said that he has supported Holland financially as he believes the convicted criminal to be a "good man".

"This man [Holland] has been terribly wronged. It is a symptom of the need for society to find a person to blame for Veronica Guerin's murder that he is blamed. . . I know he is a good man, my dog adores him and so does my 10-year-old son, " di Stefano said.

Di Stefano said that Holland had received an offer from an American director who is eager to make a film of the criminal's life, although the lawyer said that neither this nor the option of writing a ghosted biography would be considered until his action against the State had progressed.

Di Stefano said that he filed papers last week with the office of the president, Mary McAleese, seeking a pardon for Holland under the president's constitutional powers.

Gilligan last week gave a rare interview in a bid to sanitise his public image, in which he insisted that he had not ordered the assassination of Veronica Guerin and in which he expressed a desire to see the reporter's killer caught.

Gilligan's comments appeared at length in the Irish edition of a British tabloid. The paper has acknowledged being assisted by di Stefano in organising the interview.

Gilligan dismissed claims made at the Special Criminal Court that barrister Felix McEnroy overheard the drug dealer allegedly threaten Veronica Guerin in a phone call to the reporter on 15 September 1995. Gilligan is alleged to have said that if she wrote anything about him he would kidnap her son and rape him.

In a comment that was met with general disbelief, Gilligan also said that he was "dismayed" by those who say that he is a violent and dangerous man.

"I'm not a violent man and I'm well liked, " he said. At the time that Veronica Guerin was murdered she had given statements to gardai that she had been seriously assaulted by Gilligan.

In November 2003, the Court of Criminal Appeal reduced Gilligan's 28-year prison sentence for drug dealing by eight years. Gilligan, who was jailed in March 2001 on 11 counts of possession of cannabis, had appealed against the severity of the sentence.

However, he must serve a further five years upon completion of this sentence, following his 2002 conviction for threatening to kill two prison officers and their families while in Portlaoise.

Di Stefano will seek to further reduce the jail sentence which Gilligan is serving, arguing that the sentence applied in Gilligan's case was disproportionate to the crime for which he was convicted.

Di Stefano has asked the leading UK expert on sentencing, Dr David Thomas QC, who is also a professor of law at Cambridge, to attend at the sentencing case, which is scheduled for 29 May.

Holland was convicted in November 1997 of possession of cannabis for the purposes of sale or supply within the State on a date unknown between 1 October 1995 and 6 October 1996.

He was sentenced to 20 years but this was reduced on appeal to 12 years. Holland became involved with the John Gilligan drugs gang when he was released from an earlier prison sentence in 1994.

Garda Marion Cusack told the court at Holland's trial that after he arrived at the Dun Laoghaire ferry port on 9 April 1997, she arrested him on suspicion of having a firearm at the junction of the Naas Road and Boot Road on 26 June 1996.

"I had formed the opinion that Patrick Holland was the man who shot dead Veronica Guerin, " she said in evidence.
April 30, 2006

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