Thursday 21 November 2019

High profile witness sues State for failure to fulfil protection programme promise


A man's legal action over the alleged failure of the State to live up to its promises when he agreed to enter the witness protection programme will have to be heard behind closed doors, the High Court ruled today.

However, the High Court have ruled that judgement will be delivered in open court.

David Mooney, who was a witness in a high profile trial against two men who were convicted of involvement in organised and subversive crime, is suing the Garda Commissioner and the State for allegedly failing to abide by the agreement made when he entered the programme, including failing to give him a new identity and relocate him to another country.

Today, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan ruled the case should be heard in private in order to protect the safety of garda handlers and others involved in administering the programme from being targeted by subversives and organised crime.  

The involvement of third countries, in providing havens for people in the programme, could also be jeopardised if such involvement was to be openly discussed during a court trial, the judge said.

The State had made the application for the action to be heard other than in public on these grounds which Mr Justice Gilligan said had not be contradicted by Mr Mooney.  

Mr Mooney had opposed the in camera application saying his life was in danger and he needed to vindicate his name through public proceedings.

The judge said he came to the conclusion that the State will be impeded from a fair trial if the case is to be heard in public and that directions from the trial judge would not be sufficient to deal with concerns in relation to disclosure of information concerning the witness protection programme.

The court considered this an exceptional case, he said.

The court "has to be conscious of the present situation in Ireland pertaining to subversives and organised crime" and there was no need to highlight the level of concern that must exist in this regard and to the general welfare of society, he said.

Evidence from the State that the identity of gardai involved in the programme would render them targets for subversives and organised criminal gangs had not be contradicted. 

Evidence that the programme itself would be seriously compromised if certain information was made public had also not been disputed, he said.

In his action, Mr Mooney claims that when he agreed to give evidence against two IRA men convicted in Special Criminal Court in November 2003, he was promised a new house, car, name, date of birth, Personal Public Service (PPS) number, an income and a green card for the US.

He alleges he never received what he was promised and claims gardai made the promises knowing them to be false or alternatively were reckless and did not care whether they were true or false.

As a result, Mr Mooney alleges, he has been unable to get employment, has no PPS number that he can use and has been denied social welfare payments.

He also “fears for his safety and security” and claims he has been threatened because of giving evidence in the case.

He is seeking damages against claiming the State breached its contract with him and deprived him of his constitutional rights to bodily integrity and work.

The allegations are denied.

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