Saturday 16 November 2019

Garda tells court Credit Union official showed his father his confidential financial statements

DEBTS: St Raphael’s Credit Union has 32,000 members
DEBTS: St Raphael’s Credit Union has 32,000 members

Tim Healy

A CREDIT Union allegedly showed a member's father his confidential financial statements indicating the son's loans were in trouble, the High Court heard.

Garda Kevin Martin, a member of St Raphael's Garda Credit Union, claims his data protection rights were breached when a representative of the credit union turned up at his father's home and showed him the documentation.

Garda Martin, who is based in Dublin, is seeking an order that the Data Protection Commissioner conduct an oral hearing into his complaint.

Jim O'Callaghan SC was granted leave to challenge the Commissioner's decision by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan. The application was made ex parte (only one side represented).

In his judicial review application, Garda Martin says he has been a member of St Raphael's since 2004 and in January 2012, the credit union wrote to him asking it to contact one of its representatives in relation to his loan account. He made a number of efforts to contact the representative without success.

In March 2012, he emailed the person who was trying to contact and received a "read receipt" indicating the email had been read, it is claimed. 

This was the last communication he received until he got a phone call from his father saying a man from the credit union had called to his father's house asking to speak to Garda Martin about his loans which were "in trouble".

It is claimed the man said Garda Martin's loans were substantial and he also showed the father a folder containing his financial statements. The man also claimed Garda Martin had ignored the credit union's attempts to contact him.

Garda Martin complained to the Data Protection Commissioner who contacted St Raphael's.

The Commissioner told the garda's solicitor it was not possible for him (Commissioner) to form a definitive opinion on the complaint because it concerned an allegation of a verbal disclosure. It would be impossible to prove personal information was unfairly disclosed under the Data Protection Acts, the Commissioner said.

Garda Martin argued the Commissioner should conduct an oral hearing so a fuller investigation of his complaint can be carried out but this was refused.

Mr O'Callaghan, for Garda Martin, said it was their case that an oral hearing should be conducted in circumstances where there is an issue of fact in dispute and which can only be resolved by hearing the parties involved. It is a matter which could be determined through a short oral hearing, he said.

It is claimed that in refusing a hearing, the Commissioner had breached Garda Martin's rights to natural and constitutional justice.

The matter comes back before the court next month.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News