Friday 22 September 2017

Garda Commissioner and State ask claim of 'malicious prosecution' be struck out

* Man had been accused of making threats to Paul Williams - he was acquitted following trial

The Four Courts
The Four Courts

Tim Healy

THE Garda Commissioner and State have asked the High Court to dismiss a claim of malicious prosecution brought against them by Dublin man James Walsh.

Mr Walsh says he was the victim of a malicious prosecution arising out of his trial for alleged threats to kill and cause serious harm to journalist Paul Williams. Mr Walsh was acquitted of the charges by a jury in 2007.

He has sued the Commissioner, Ireland and the Attorney General.

The defendants contend there was inordinate delay by Mr Walsh, of Dunmore Park, Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, Dublin, in advancing his civil action.

In an application before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan Wednesday (Feb 11), they asked the court to have the matter struck out.

Paul Anthony McDermott Bl, for the defendants, said the events Mr Walsh complains of date back to 2003. However Mr Walsh had failed to progress his civil action with expedition.

A statement of claim was served in October 2009, two years after his acquittal.

Counsel said on two occasions since Mr Walsh failed to attend court resulting in his notice of trial being struck out.

Counsel said Mr Walsh had said the  delay was due to his failure to have legal representation up until 2014, and health problems.

However these reasons, counsel said, were not accepted why there had been an inordinate delay by Mr Walsh in advancing his case.

While Mr Walsh did not have lawyers on record, documents he submitted as part of his claim were of a high standard and prepared by somebody with some form of legal knowledge or training, counsel added.

Counsel also said the case against his clients was "speculative in nature." and consists of Mr Walsh "making unsubstantiated allegations against the gardai."

Counsel added it was not the gardai who decided Mr Whelan should be prosecuted for allegedly threatening Mr Williams but the Director of Public Prosecutions which is an independent office.

 

Opposing the application, Mr Walsh's solicitor Anne Fitzgibbon, said her client was acquitted by a jury in 2007. There had been two previous trials which were aborted. Those three trials "had effectively ruined Mr Walsh's life."

 

He had brought the proceedings within the allowed legal time limits but he had been hugely disadvantaged by not having any legal representation, she said.

 

She only come into the case in 2014.

 

Prior to then Mr Walsh was not been represented by either solicitor or barrister but had got some assistance from a friend who had been a lay litigant.

 

Mr Walsh had suffered from heart problems in 2008, she said.

 

Ms Fitzgibbon said that if the court did find there had been a delay the balance of justice favoured allowing the case go to trial. The state parties had no shown any prejudice to them as a result of any alleged delay, she added.

 

Mr Justice Gilligan  said the central issue the court has to decide is if lay litigants are entitled to more time to bring an action compared to those who are represented by lawyers.

 

The judge said he will give judgment at a later date.

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