Monday 11 December 2017

Justice Minister orders report after Callely wins court case

Ivor Callely leaving the High Court yesterday
Ivor Callely leaving the High Court yesterday

Tim Healy and Lise Hand

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has asked the Prison Services for a report on a judge's ruling that she must reconsider her refusal to grant former politician Ivor Callely enhanced remission from the prison sentence he had been serving for fraudulently claiming Oireachtas expenses.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr found that the minister fell into error as it appeared that she had failed to take all relevant matters into account, which she is obliged to do, when arriving at her decision.

The judge quashed the refusal to grant Callely enhanced remission and ruled that the application should go back to the minister for reconsideration.

Had his challenge been dismissed, Callely, who was present in court for the judgment, faced being returned to prison for six days to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Callely said afterwards that it had been "a good day", however Ms Fitzgerald is still considering her options.

"Obviously I've been speaking to the director of the Prison Service today and we will have to analyse that judgment. I've asked for a report on it," Ms Fitzgerald said.

She added: "Precisely what that might or might not be will be determined by our assessment of the court and our response to it."

Callely had been on bail on his own bond of €100 pending the outcome of the legal challenge to the decision of the minister and the governor of Wheatfield Prison in Dublin not to grant him remission or temporary release.

The State parties denied the claims and opposed the action.

Speaking outside the court, the disgraced politician said it has been "a difficult" time but added: "People will know the full set [of circumstances] in due course."

He was serving a five-month sentence he received last July after he admitted fraudulently claiming €4,207.45 in expenses from the Oireachtas on forged mobile phone invoices.

Callely claimed that he was entitled to one-third remission of his sentence, as opposed to the normal one-quarter, because he demonstrated good behaviour by participating in structured prison activities.

He argued that the minister's refusal of temporary release or extra remission was unfair. He was not being treated the same as other prisoners who had committed more serious crimes, he said.

Callely also claimed that he had been told by staff at Wheatfield Prison that he should not be in prison and was only there because of his high profile.

He claimed that he had been "punished twice" because of his "high profile".

Mr Justice Barr said an error of material significance was made by a failure to properly assess the available evidence as to the manner and the extent to which Callely had engaged with the authorised structured activities.

There was no evidence in the minister's decision that adequate regard was given to a number of factors when considering the application for enhanced remission, he said.

They included reports from an assistant prison governor that there was very little chance of Callely re-offending, that he was a first-time offender, and that he had engaged fully with all the services while in prison.

In relation to the refusal to grant temporary release, the judge said it was his view that the minister exercised her discretion in a reasonable manner such as she was entitled to.

Callely had not established that her decision to refuse to grant him temporary release was "capricious, arbitrary or unjust", he said.

Irish Independent

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