Friday 23 February 2018

Shatter pursues court challenge to data ruling

Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter has lodged a High Court challenge over a ruling that he breached the Data Protection Act by disclosing sensitive information about TD Mick Wallace.

The Fine Gael backbencher is now preparing for a further court appearance as he attempts to prove that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner made "serious errors" in concluding that he breached data protection laws.

The case centres upon an appearance by Mr Shatter on RTE's 'Primetime' in May 2013 during which the then minister claimed gardaí had cautioned Mr Wallace after he was found on his phone while driving.

It later emerged that Mr Shatter had received the information from former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, who has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The decision to reveal the information on live TV landed Mr Shatter in hot water and led to calls for his resignation. He has since resigned from the Cabinet post following the publication of the Guerin report into garda malpractice.

The ruling by the then Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes that Mr Shatter had breached data protection rules was heard by the Circuit Court last month. However, the appeal was dismissed by Judge Jacqueline Linnane, who said that in her view Mr Hawkes had followed fair procedure in making his decision.

The Irish Independent has learned that Mr Shatter has now appealed the matter to the High Court. The decision to launch the appeal has been communicated to both Mr Wallace, a Wexford TD, and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

The Dublin South TD did not respond to a query from the Irish Independent last night.

In his appeal to the Circuit Court last month, Mr Shatter said Mr Hawkes had pre-judged his inquiry and made "serious errors".

Dismissing Mr Shatter's appeal and awarding costs against him, Judge Linnane said that in her view the Commissioner had considered the matter fully and at length in the course of his investigation.

She said the commissioner had taken into account the arguments put forward by Mr Shatter; fair procedures had been followed and reasons given for the conclusion and decision reached.

"I do not consider that it has been shown that the decision made was vitiated by any serious or significant error or series of such errors….and I dismiss the appeal," Judge Linnane said.

Irish Independent

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