Friday 24 January 2020

Legal challenge to current garda vetting procedure

A MAN has brought a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the current garda vetting procedure.

Trevor Webster claims he failed to get a job as a firefighter because a vetting report included details of minor offences he was charged with, but never convicted of.

In 2009, Mr Webster applied to Kilkenny Co Council for the position of permanent firefighter, at Urlingford, Co Kilkenny.

Following an interview process he was ranked first of all the applicants.

However after a Garda vetting report disclosed five 'non convictions' he was refused the post. The Council justified its decision, he claims, by saying that it could not trust him.

He said the charges, which were minor in nature included alleged criminal damage, road traffic matters and theft, were all struck out without evidence being heard.

He said the allegations were made by people in dispute with with his father over the ownership of lands, and were made to embarrass and damage him.

In High Court proceedings against the Garda Commissioner, Ireland and the Attorney General Mr Webster from the Island, Urlingford, Co Kilkenny claims there was no justification for the inclusion of these details on the vetting report.

He wishes to apply for positions in bodies including the Civil Defence forces where, like the firefighting post, Garda vetting is mandatory.

He claims the dissemination of non-convictions to third parties is in violation of his constitutional rights. Passing the information denied him his right to a good name and adversely affects his right to a good name.

He is seeking declarations including that the current Garda vetting procedure breaches his constitutional rights, and is incompatible with the state’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The state, which denies the claims, has sought to have the action struck out.

At the High Court Peter Ward SC for the State said the action should be struck out on the grounds including that the case amounts to an abuse of process, and that Mr Webster lacks the legal standing to bring his action.

Counsel said that arising out of the same set of circumstances Mr Webster brought, and settled, High Court proceedings against both his clients and the Council.

It was agreed that an independent panel would review his application.

However the council's original decision was upheld.

It was also agreed the settlement agreement was a full and final settlement of any claim Mr Webster had against the parties arising out of the not to proceed with his application for employment, counsel added.

Mr Webster's current claim, was an attempt to re-litigate matters already settled, could not proceed arising out of that agreement counsel added.

Opposing the application Ross Maguire SC for Mr Webster faces being shut out of any job that requires Garda vetting if details of non convictions are furnished to third parties.

The settlement agreement related only to Kilkenny Co Council's decision and does not cover this subsequent challenge against the Garda vetting procedure brought by his client.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy reserved judgment.

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