Chawke wins legal challenge over findings on Ahern 'dig-out'
PUBLICAN Charlie Chawke has won a legal challenge to the Planning Tribunal in which he claimed it breached fair procedures in finding he had not co-operated in his evidence about a 'dig-out' for former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
However, the High Court rejected a separate but similar challenge over non-cooperation by former Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown councillor Tony Fox.
Mr Fox was found to have given false evidence when he denied receiving money from lobbyist Frank Dunlop for voting for the rezoning of land in Co Dublin. Both Mr Chawke and Mr Fox challenged "non-cooperation" findings which meant there were consequences for any legal costs orders against them by the tribunal.
Mr Chawke was mainly concerned the finding had seriously damaged his reputation. The tribunal denied the claims.
Yesterday, Ms Justice Marie Baker ruled the "deductive reasoning" process under which the tribunal found Mr Chawke was a non-cooperating witness was not arrived at by affording him fair procedures.
There was not present any of the vitiating factors, such as frailty of memory, that might have allowed the tribunal to conclude he had not knowingly been untruthful, she said.
The process of adjudication by the tribunal which resulted in the finding was deductive in that sense and must fail for breach of fairness, she said.
In relation to the Tony Fox case, the judge said that unlike Mr Chawke, Mr Fox was not a mere witness but was identified as someone who received monies to vote for rezoning.
Mr Fox denied receiving payments for rezoning votes and, as a witness whose evidence was central to matters being determined by the tribunal, he was afforded every opportunity to put his version of events, she said.
The tribunal found his denials were falsely given, that his evidence was motivated by a desire to frustrate its inquiries and that he had not co-operated, she said.
The core question for her was whether the tribunal fell into error in relying on its substantive finding of corruption in coming to its conclusion.
The judge said it seemed to her the tribunal did not fall into error because its conclusion was based on "its actual and analysed finding that Mr Fox's evidence was to be disbelieved".