News Courts

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ben Gilroy says witnesses 'may have been coached'

Tim Healy

POLITICAL activist Ben Gilroy claims witnesses who say they saw him being served with a contempt of court notice at a protest over the repossession of a stud farm may have been "coached" or may be lying.

Mr Gilroy, a founder of Direct Democracy Ireland, today got an adjournment to next month of a High Court hearing of contempt proceedings against him after complaining he had not got an opportunity to respond to affidavits from the witnesses.

The affidavits were from three people, including a garda superintendent, who say they saw an attempt being made to hand him a copy of a notice last August telling him he faced being in contempt for interfering with receiver taking over the Kildare stud farm over an unpaid debt.

Mr Gilroy was allegedly part of a large protest against the repossession.

Mr Gilroy said that despite the fact that yesterday's hearing date over his alleged contempt had been set by the court two months ago, it was not until last weekend that he received the affidavits of the three witnesses which came as  email attachments he was unable to open.

He also received a  post office notice on Monday night saying a registered letter was being held at his local collection office which he believed contained the hard copy affidavits but which he had not yet had a chance to collect.

He needed time to respond to those affidavits which the receivers say prove Mr Gilroy was aware he faced possible jailing for contempt for interference with the receivership of the 120-acre stud farm at at Kennycourt, Brannockstown, Naas.

Lawyers for the receivers,  Mark Reynolds and Glenn Crann, told the court previously they had video evidence supporting their claim Mr Gilroy was "centrally involved" in "very unsavoury events"  when up to

300 people were "encouraged onto" the stud farm.

Yesterday, Michael Howard SC, for the receivers, said the affidavits, from a local garda superintendent and two security men employed at the farm by the receivers, stated that during the anti-repossession protest they saw Mr Gilroy let the contempt of court notice fall on to the ground when the an attempt was made by a representative of the receivers to hand it to him.

The garda superintendent also said he heard Mr Gilroy say that he "did not recognise the order (of the court notifying him he would be in contempt if he interfered with the receivership)", counsel said.

The witnesses also said they saw Mr Gilroy and other people at the protest later gathered around reading the notice.

There was ample case law to state that even if Mr Gilroy had only let it fall on the ground and not read it, this did not save him from contempt, Mr Howard said.

Mr Gilroy had replied to the emails sent by the receivers' solicitors, with the affidavits attached, in pejorative terms, counsel said.  He had written: "typical sharp practice from you cowboys".

Mr Gilroy, representing himself, said the receivers' lawyers had over two months to provide him with the affidavits but had only done so just before the hearing.   

He still had not received them and this was "sharp practice" by Eugene F Collins solicitors, for the receivers, he said.

"Why has it taken until the night before the court to deliver the affidavits", he asked.

"I am entitled to reply to them to prove them wrong and that they were coached or even lying on their affidavits."

He would provide evidence to back up his claims, he said.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan said were this an ordinary civil matter and not a

contempt case, he would have required it to go ahead.  

However, as it had serious consequences for Mr Gilroy and as he was a lay litigant he would grant him an adjournment to file replying affidavits.

It was not satisfactory that Mr Gilroy should have to deal with new affidavits at this late stage and while it was unfortunate that the matter could not go ahead, it was in the interests of justice that he should be granted an adjournment until next month.

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