State failed to set me up with a new life, trial witness claims
A MAN'S legal action over the alleged failure of the State to live up to promises made to him under the witness protection programme will have to be heard behind closed doors, the High Court has ruled.
David Mooney was a witness in a high-profile trial against two men convicted of involvement in organised and subversive crime.
Mr Mooney is suing the Garda Commissioner and the State for allegedly failing to abide by the agreement made when he entered the programme, including failing to give him a new identity and to relocate him to another country.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan ruled the case should be heard in private to protect gardai and others involved in administering the programme from being targeted by crime gangs.
The involvement of other countries, to which witnesses are relocated, could also be jeopardised if such involvement was to be openly discussed during a trial, the judge said.
The state parties wanted Mr Mooney's action heard in private. Mr Mooney opposed the application, saying a hearing in open court was necessary to vindicate his rights.
It was argued he remains in fear for his personal safety and that of his partner and child.
Mr Justice Gilligan said the court was very conscious the witness protection programme was a means of ensuring the State could provide adequate protection to witnesses.
It had to be borne in mind the Oireachtas had not seen the need to put the witness protection programme on a statutory footing, he said. Therefore it was not possible to provide for any legislative exceptions to the constitutional requirement (Article 34.1) for justice to be administered in public, the judge said.
The trend of legal authorities to date was that 'in camera' orders should only be made in exceptional circumstances.
This was an exceptional case, he said. He had come to the conclusion that the State would be impeded from a fair trial if the case was heard in public.
Directions from the trial judge would not be sufficient to deal with concerns in relation to disclosure of information concerning the witness protection programme.
The court "has to be conscious of the present situation in Ireland pertaining to subversives and organised crime" and there was no need to highlight the level of concern that must exist in this regard and to the general welfare of society, he said.
Evidence from the State that the identity of gardai involved in the programme would render them targets for criminal gangs had not been contradicted by Mr Mooney, he said.
Evidence that the programme itself would be seriously compromised if certain information was made public had also not been disputed, he said. It had also to be borne in mind the order sought by the State did not compromise in any way Mr Mooney's right to a fair trial, the judge added.
In his action, Mr Mooney claims that when he agreed to give evidence against two IRA men convicted in the Special Criminal Court in November 2003, he was promised a new house, car, name, date of birth, PPS number, an income and relocation to another country.
He alleges he never received what he was promised and claims gardai made the promises knowing them to be false or alternatively were reckless and did not care whether they were true or false.
As a result, Mr Mooney alleges, he has been unable to get employment, has no PPS number that he can use and has been denied social welfare payments. He also "fears for his safety and security" and claims he has been threatened because of giving evidence in the case.
The allegations are denied.