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Friday 19 September 2014

Shatter asks court to quash findings of Guerin report

Tim Healy

Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30

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Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter

FORMER Justice Minister Alan Shatter has begun a High Court challenge aimed at quashing certain findings of the Guerin report concerning his handling of claims by garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

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Mr Shatter claims that the report, authored by Senior Counsel Sean Guerin, rendered his position as justice minister "untenable" and inflicted "severe and irreversible" damage on him in the political context.

Mr Shatter resigned on May 7 last, a day after the report had been received by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

In an eight-page affidavit grounding his application for judicial review, Mr Shatter claims that he was given "no notice whatsoever" that Mr Guerin intended "to pass judgment on my actions as minister".

He has also said he is concerned that Mr Guerin was "objectively biased" in drawing the conclusion as to his apparent – and denied – lack of action or communication with regard to Sgt McCabe's complaints.

Mr Shatter, who said he is not asserting that Mr Guerin was actually biased, has based his concern on the fact that Mr Guerin was – when he was conducting his review – a member of the Professional Practices Committee (PCC) of the Bar Council, the ruling body for barristers.

Mr Shatter said the PCC committee had openly criticised provisions of the Legal Services Bill, which he was "singularly associated with through the legislature". It is understood, however, that although the Bar Council has opposed aspects of the bill, the PCC has not taken any formal position on it.

In his action, Mr Shatter alleges objective bias, absence of fair procedures and "indecent haste" on the part of Senior Counsel Mr Guerin in how he compiled his report and reached conclusions critical of the minister.

Among Mr Shatter's complaints is that Mr Guerin should have interviewed him prior to reaching conclusions on a range of issues. This was very important given that the conclusions had gravely affected his career and reputation, Mr Shatter said.

Had he been interviewed, Mr Shatter said that would have shown that he had not deferred to the former Garda Commissioner's view concerning the allegations by Sgt McCabe.

Mr Shatter is alleging breach of fair procedures and natural justice and "indecent haste" on the part of Mr Guerin in how he compiled his report, his counsel Patrick O'Reilly SC said in the High Court.

A "particularly serious consequence" of Mr Guerin's failure to interview him as minister prior to the report's publication was that he (Guerin) had misread a letter of advice received by the Department of Justice from the Office of the Attorney General on December 18, 2013, concerning the approach to Sergeant McCabe's complaints, it is alleged.

Had the alleged misreading not occurred, Mr Guerin would not have reached certain conclusions adverse to the minister, it is claimed.

Mr Shatter also alleges Mr Guerin omitted from his report part of the advice which, Mr Shatter claims, recommended the McCabe claims be dealt with in a manner "entirely opposite to the approach subsequently recommended by Mr Guerin".

Ms Justice Marie Baker granted permission to Mr Shatter's lawyers to bring the judicial review proceedings. The matter comes back before the High Court in October.

Irish Independent

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