Monday 16 September 2019

Former Garda in legal bid to find source of alleged smears on WhatsApp

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

An ex-garda has issued legal proceedings in a bid to find out the identities of former colleagues who allegedly defamed him in messages circulated via WhatsApp and Facebook.

Keith Blythe wants Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to disclose the names of gardaí involved in the circulation of false material so that defamation proceedings can be issued against them.

The material was spread via messaging apps in September last year in an apparent effort to smear Mr Blythe after he issued High Court injunction proceedings which had the potential to temporarily block the promotion of hundreds of gardaí.

The Irish Independent understands at least one garda was subsequently the subject of an internal disciplinary inquiry over the distribution of the messages.

Now, Mr Blythe has issued legal proceedings aimed at discovering who was involved in the circulation of the messages, which are said to have caused considerable distress to him and his family.

The case was briefly before the High Court on Wednesday and is expected to go to a hearing next week.

The court heard Mr Blythe is seeking what is known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order.

This is a court order which would require a third party, in this case the commissioner, to disclose the identity of an unknown wrongdoer, having somehow been mixed up in the wrongdoing.

If granted, it assists the applicant in bringing legal proceedings against the individuals who are believed to have wronged them.

Conor Power SC, for the commissioner, told Mr Justice Richard Humphreys the application would be opposed.

Mr Blythe, from Naas, Co Kildare, is being represented by Paul O'Higgins SC, instructed by Rennick Solicitors.

He previously served in the legal department in Garda Headquarters, but is no longer a member of the force.

On September 20 last year, he issued High Court proceedings aimed at halting a Garda sergeant promotion competition until an internal appeal he had lodged was fully investigated.

Within days of the proceedings being served, he became aware of the messages being circulated about him.

Mr Blythe's action arose from an inappropriate question he claimed he was asked about "whistleblowers" during an interview conducted as part of the promotion competition.

He sought a declaration that the conduct of the promotion system was tainted with irregularity and flawed.

His action had the potential to temporarily prevent the promotion of the 410 candidates selected from 1,414 who sought promotion to the rank of sergeant.

However, the case was struck out after the court was told the matter had been resolved.

No details of any settlement were disclosed.

Irish Independent

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