Saturday 16 December 2017

Man found guilty of harassing garda claims conviction ‘an act of bad faith by judge’

Former garda Austin Woods was found guilty of harassing his ex-girlfriend
Former garda Austin Woods was found guilty of harassing his ex-girlfriend

A MAN is seeking to overturn his conviction for harassing a garda sergeant and his wife after alleging the conviction was "malicious" and an act of bad faith by a judge.

Joseph Lavery told the High Court he believed District Court Judge Sean McBride imposed the May 2006 conviction after "colluding" with two named gardai.

He alleges those gardai were previously involved in harassing himself and his family after he reported to the force in 1999 his concerns about Garda Austin Woods, later jailed in connection with making 3,000 nuisance calls to his (Woods’) ex-girlfriend.

When Mr Lavery also read part of his affidavit alleging Judge McBride "attempted to pervert the course of justice in his abuse of Garda John Wilson", he was told by the president of the High Court the court could not be used as "a soapbox".

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was dealing yesterday with an application by the DPP to be joined as respondent to judicial review proceedings brought by Mr Lavery, Beech Hill, Cootehill, Co Cavan, against District Judge McBride and Circuit Court Judge John O'Hagan arising from Mr Lavery's conviction by Judge McBride in May 2006 on harassment charges.

The conviction was upheld on appeal in July 2009 but a six-month prison sentence, which was stayed pending the appeal,  was suspended on conditions.

Lily Buckley BL, for the DPP, said the Director was the appropriate respondent in the proceedings rather than the two judges.

Mr Lavery opposed the application and read sections of his affidavit alleging "the malicious convictions" he received on May 16, 2006, was "an act of mal fides (bad faith) by Judge Sean McBride" after, Mr Lavery believed, the judge colluded with two named gardai.

Referring to an affidavit sworn by Judge McBride himself, when he acted as a solicitor in separate court proceedings in 2001, Mr Lavery said the DPP's solicitor was seeking to remove that "self-damning" affidavit from this case.

He also alleged another garda sergeant had on one occasion threatened to arrest both Mr Lavery and his wife and to put their children into care. After Mr Lavery became upset while reading that part of his affidavit, Mr Justice Kearns said he would read the rest of the document in his chambers. 

When the judge returned, he said, because Mr Lavery had criticised aspects of Mr Justice Kearns' handling of the judicial review case, it was appropriate the application to have the DPP joined should be heard by another judge.   He adjourned the matter for two weeks.

In an affidavit on behalf of the DPP, a solicitor said it was apparent from the pleadings that Mr Lavery was making allegations "of the utmost seriousness" against a number of judges and other persons and, in his most recent affidavit, had alleged "abuse of process". The DPP wanted to see all of the documents being relied on in this case.

In various affidavits, Mr Lavery alleges a number of gardai engaged in harassing himself and his family after he had in 1999 made a report expressing concerns about the safety of Colette Johnson, ex-girlfriend of former Garda Austin Woods.

Mr Lavery claims he had in December 1999 expressed concerns to a detective and a garda for the safety of Ms Johnson and her daughter. He claims the detective assured him he would do everything he could to protect them and phoned Mr Lavery later that night saying a superintendent had authorised an investigation "because of my suspicions".

A statement was later taken from Ms Johnson and Garda Woods later lost his job and was convicted, Mr Lavery said. The detective whom he had spoken to about the matter had refused to take a statement from Mr Lavery after saying Garda Woods was "too dangerous", Mr Lavery alleged.

On May 16, 2006, Mr Lavery was convicted by Judge McBride and jailed for six months on charges of harassing the garda sergeant in question and his (sergeant's) wife.

Among several claims, it is alleged Mr Lavery claimed Judge McBride imposed the conviction in the absence of evidence from the correct prosecuting Garda. It is also alleged Judge McBride was abusive to Mr Lavery and denied him a fair hearing. He was released on bail the next day pending appeal and on conditions. 

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