Wednesday 17 January 2018

Judges 'leapfrog' appeal case of ex-Rehab charity boss Kerins to Supreme Court

Angela Kerins pictured leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Angela Kerins pictured leaving the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Angela Kerins's appeal of her failed legal action for damages against the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Three Supreme Court judges determined the former Rehab Group chief executive could 'leapfrog' the Court of Appeal due to the "exceptional circumstances" and issues of "general public importance" involved.

The Supreme Court has also agreed to simultaneously hear an appeal by the PAC against a High Court order that it cover two-thirds of her legal costs. It will also hear a costs appeal by the Attorney General and the State after both were left to pay their own costs despite successfully defending the action.

The former charity and commercial group executive unsuccessfully sued for damages and sought declarations that the PAC acted unlawfully and was tainted by bias during two hearings in 2014. She alleged bullying by certain committee members, claiming they pursued a "vendetta" and "a witch-hunt" against her, forcing her to attempt suicide.

Last January, the High Court found remarks made about Ms Kerins damaged her personal and professional reputation.

However, it said it could not intervene as the Constitution prevents courts from adjudicating on comments made by TDs and senators in the Oireachtas. It ruled Oireachtas privilege extended to comments made in committees as well.

She lodged appeal papers with both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in May.

In a written determination made on Monday, Chief Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice Frank Clarke and Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley agreed to allow the appeals go forward to the Supreme Court.

"The issues raised include, as a matter of general public importance, the legal safeguards available to witnesses who appear before the PAC in a voluntary capacity," they said.

The judges said the case also raised "the role, if any, which the court has in protecting such witnesses, in circumstances where there are the important issues of freedom of speech in the legislature, the separation of powers, and the extent to which the court may intervene in the affairs of the legislature".

Irish Independent

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