Thursday 17 October 2019

Casino wins challenge over allegedly selling alcohol without a licence

4 Aces Casino in Galway
Photo: Google Maps
4 Aces Casino in Galway Photo: Google Maps

Tim Healy

A casino has won a challenge seeking to prevent a District Court judge hearing a prosecution against it for allegedly selling alcohol without a licence.

The High Court ruled Midnight Entertainment Ltd Limited, which runs the "4 Aces" casino in Galway city, was entitled to an order quashing Judge Mary Fahy's decision not to recuse herself from hearing the prosecution.  

The company is charged with selling drink without a licence on November 28, 2015.

It says it is a private members' club and does not require a liquor licence. It denies any wrongdoing and intends to fully defend the prosecution.

Midnight Entertainments claimed that Judge Fahy, who had been due to hear the prosecution before Galway District Court, had made remarks in a previous, similar, case against a director of the company in 2015.

On that occasion, Judge Fahy found the director guilty, imposed a six month suspended prison sentence on him, and remarked that if the premises was a "genuine casino" it "must" have a liquor licence. 

When the second prosecution came before the District Court in January 2017, the company asked Judge Fahy to recuse herself from hearing the case, which she refused to do.

The casino operators claimed the remarks in the earlier case give rise to a reasonable apprehension that the company would not receive a fair hearing from an impartial judge.

It asked the High Court to quash the judge's decision.

The DPP opposed the application.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said that in making his decision he was mindful that District Judges bear an extremely heavy workload and it is often the case that the same persons appear before them on a regular basis.

It did not follow that the District judges are obliged to remove themselves when this happens.

However, in this particular case, the charges were the same with the only difference being that on the first occasion the charges were brought against a company director whereas on the second occasion the same charges were brought against the company itself. 

In the circumstances, the Judge said the company is entitled to the relief sought.

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