Wednesday 26 June 2019

Former K Club manager's case over alleged threat thrown out

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

The High Court has dismissed an action by a former manager at the K Club who claimed he had been threatened at Punchestown races seven years ago.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr ruled Peter Curran (51) had not been threatened.

He could now face a substantial legal costs bill for the 25-day hearing involving four legal teams and six senior counsel.

Mr Justice Barr also found Mr Curran had sent five bogus emails in a desperate attempt to entice a K Club superintendent, Gerry Byrne, whom he alleged made the threat, into making an "inculpatory statement" which would also incriminate the K Club owner and millionaire businessman Michael Smurfit.

This, the judge said, would have ended the litigation and resulted in a "windfall of damages" to Mr Curran, from Cahirciveen, Co Kerry.

As part of that stratagem, the judge said, Mr Curran planted a story with the gardai about his iPad being taken from him during that period.

The technical evidence, while not perfect, was strongly suggestive of Mr Curran having sent the emails.

He was satisfied Mr Curran sent the emails  to Mr Byrne. He found Mr Curran had "lied continually" in relation to what he told various parties and also in his evidence to the court on the matter.

Mr Justice Barr said the court had to have regard to the fact that Mr Curran is capable of "engaging in deceptive and manipulative conduct to achieve his desired goals."

"He is also prepared to lie to cover his tracks. He lied to the court repeatedly in his evidence on the emails issue," the judge said,

The court was also satisfied Mr Curran had lied on a number of other occasions.

Mr Curran had sued his former employer, the K Club Ltd,Straffan, Co Kildare. Dr Michael Smurfit, and K Club resort superintendent Gerry Byrne.

Mr Curran had claimed on May 7, 2011 his way was blocked in the toilets at Punchestown Races and Mr Byrne allegedly said; "Dr Smurfit has not forgotten the statements about him and the call girls. Dr Smurfit knows where to find you and this is not over."

All three defendants had denied all the claims.

Dismissing the action against all defendants, Mr Justice Barr was satisfied Mr Byrne did not have any interaction or conversation with Mr Curran on May 7, 2011 .

"In short, the court accepts the evidence of Mr Byrne that he did not threaten Mr Curran in the manner alleged or at all on the day in question," the judge stated.

Insofar as there was an allegation of a physical assault the judge said that was a lie and the court must find Mr Curran will lie when it suits his case and must approach his evidence with caution.

He said there was a "lack of consistency" in Mr Curran's accounts of the alleged incident at Punchestown.

By February 2012, Mr Curran's allegation had changed to include and assertion that Mr Byrne had said he was bringing a message from Mr Smurfit.

This was a very significant change in his account, the judge said and by adding this "small but significant detail, Mr Curran had put himself in a position to mount a claim for damages against Mr Smurfit."

Mr Curran had not furnished any convincing evidence why that significant detail was only included after September 2011 and before February 2012 .

"Its late insertion into the narrative is consistent with it being something deliberately added to the story between those dates so as to give Mr Curran a right of action against Mr Smurfit," the judge stated.

It was "equally possible" Mr Curran simply saw Mr Byrne in the toilet and saw that as an opportunity to mount a fraudulent claim which he did by inventing the story of the threat and pretending to have an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric condition, the judge said. The court did not have to decide which of these "fraudulent possibilities" is the more likely, the judge concluded.

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