Former Sinn Féin councillor granted special hearing over waterboarding charge

Former councillor Jonathan Dowdall admits falsely imprisoning and threatening to kill a man at his home

A former Sinn Féin Councillor who waterboarded a convicted fraudster in his home has been granted a special hearing over some disputed evidence.

Jonathan Dowdall was due to be sentenced earlier this month but it was postponed after the court heard he didn't accept many of his victim’s claims.

He and his father Patrick admit falsely imprisoning and threatening to kill Alex Hurley at Jonathan’s home on the Navan Road in Dublin in 2015.

The charges stem from a USB stick discovered by gardaí in Mr Dowdall’s home in March 2016.

It contained a number of videos taken in January 2015 which showed the former Sinn Féin Councillor waterboarding a man in his garage.

Image: Jonathan Dowdall

His victim, convicted fraudster Alex Hurley, was bound to a swivel chair with white cable ties and Mr Dowdall could be seen placing a tea towel over his head before pouring two large buckets of water over him.

Mr Hurley told Gardaí that Jonathan’s 60-year-old father Patrick pulled out a silver pliers at one point and threatened to pull off his fingers one by one.

The court heard Mr Hurley had been at his home three days beforehand to check out a BMW motorcycle that was for sale.

After doing some research online, Jonathan Dowdall suspected he was being conned.

The Dowdalls were due to be sentenced earlier this month, but Jonathan’s defence barrister Michael O’Higgins told the court his client disputed some of the prosecution’s evidence.

Submissions were heard today on whether the court should hold a so-called Newton hearing, a type of mini-trial used where the two sides offer such conflicting evidence that a judge has to try and figure out which party is telling the truth.

The prosecution objected to the application on the grounds the Dowdalls had access to the books of evidence before they even entered their guilty pleas

But Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy decided they should be allowed to engage in such a hearing in the interests of justice.

She said the main points of difference for the court to rule on are whether Mr. Hurley was effectively lured to the house that night, the duration of the ordeal, a claim he was told Jonathan Dowdall was the head of the IRA and an alleged threat to his family.

She said she didn't consider an allegation that Jonathan Dowdall said he was friends with Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald to be relevant because she didn't see how this would constitute a threat.

The hearing is due to take place tomorrow morning.