Friday 24 November 2017

Alan Shatter to seek quashing of whistleblower report findings after court win

Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter

Shane Phelan Legal Affairs Editor

The way has been cleared for former Justice Minister Alan Shatter to seek the quashing of aspects of a report which criticised his handling of garda whistleblower allegations.

The Court of Appeal ruled this morning Mr Shatter was entitled to a declaration that the conclusions or opinions in the report critical of him were reached in breach of his rights to fair procedure.

Mr Shatter is now likely to seek the quashing of certain aspects of the report.

The case revolved around a scoping report prepared for the Government by barrister Sean Guerin, which examined a series of allegations about the handling of cases in the Cavan/Monaghan division and how complaints about the conduct of investigations were dealt with.

In a report delivered in May 2014, Mr Guerin accused Mr Shatter of not heeding complaints made by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Shatter objected to the process in which the report was compiled, as he did not have an opportunity to respond in advance of the report’s publication.

He resigned a day after the findings were published.

However, retired High Court judge Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins, who headed up a commission of investigation in the wake of the Guerin report, subsequently found Mr Shatter had dealt with the complaints appropriately.

In reaching its findings, the President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Sean Ryan said Mr Shatter had established his constitutional rights were in jeopardy.

He said Mr Guerin had been obliged to observe the rules of natural justice.

But there was a breach to those rights “because of the defective procedure that was adopted” and Mr Shatter “is entitled to a declaration accordingly”.

However, in approving the appeal, Mr Justice Ryan said he was not criticising Mr Guerin.

The Court of Appeal President said it was clear Mr Guerin was under pressure in dealing with “such a large amount of documentary material under severe time constraint”.

“It seems to me that he was in error, but in the overall context of what he had to do I am very far from personally critical of him.”

Mr Shatter was not in court for the ruling.

The matter will return to the court later this month where submissions will be heard on “appropriate remedies” for Mr Shatter.

In a statement, Mr Shatter welcomed the findings of the court.

“Despite the conclusions of the O’Higgins Report, the Guerin Report containing its mistaken conclusions still remains in the public domain,” he said.

“I took court proceedings to challenge the findings and conclusions of the Guerin Report which did enormous damage to my good name and reputation and which cost me my position of Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, a job I loved and a position I felt privileged to hold.

“I also have no doubt that the conclusions of Mr Guerin contributed to the loss of my Dáil seat in February of this year.

“There was, however, another reason for the challenge. I believed that the report should be challenged in the public interest to ensure that, in the future, no one conducting a non-statutory inquiry is free to criticise individuals and damage their reputation and good name without affording them an opportunity to be heard.

“Today, important constitutional values, central to our constitutional democracy have been upheld and reaffirmed to the benefit of us all.” 

Online Editors

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