Supreme Court begins hearing Tom McFeely appeal case
THE Supreme Court has begun hearing an appeal by developer Thomas McFeely against an order jailing and fining him for contempt of the High Court over works at the Priory Hall apartments in Dublin.
Last November, the president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns ordered his imprisonment for three months and also fined him €1m over his failure to comply with court undertakings he gave to carry out fire safety works at the Donaghamede apartments whose residents had to be evacuated.
He was held in custody briefly before he lodged an appeal against that order to the Supreme Court which today began hearing his appeal.
Dublin City Council, which had brought the High Court applications to try to force Mr McFeely to carry out the works, had also unsucessfully sought to lift a stay on his imprisonment pending the hearing of his appeal.
Opening the appeal on behalf of Mr McFeely and his Coalport company which built Priory Hall, Martin Hayden SC argued his client was not in contempt of the High Court because the order against him was invalid.
The order jailing Mr McFeely on November 17 followed another application by the city council to court on November 4 to have Mr McFeely removed from the Priory Hall site, counsel said.
This successful removal application was done without notice to his client and it meant it was no longer possible for Mr McFeely to comply with orders that he complete a schedule of weekly work targets by November 28 which had been set by the court on October 17.
Mr Hayden said the High Court judge had formed the view that Mr McFeely would not be able to complete the works by the end of November.
The judge then granted permission for the council to bring an application to have him committed to prison for being in breach of his previous undertakings to carry out the work, counsel said.
At the time Mr Feely was served with an order attaching and committing him to prison, he was no longer in a position to comply with the undertakings to do the work because he had been removed from the site on foot of another court order, Mr Hayden said.
The order committing him to prison was therefore invalid, counsel said.
There had also not been any compliance with the rules governing attachment and commital applications, counsel said.