Tuesday 24 October 2017

Soldier who tested positive for cocaine loses High Court challenge aimed at preventing his discharge from army

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Aodhan O'Faolain

A SOLDIER who tested positive for cocaine has lost his High Court challenge aimed at preventing his discharge from the Defence Forces.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan dismissed the action brought by Private Christopher Maher, who is stationed in Kilkenny, and tested positive for cocaine in a compulsory random drug test in March 2013.

Pvt Maher denies ever taking cocaine, and claims he ingested the drug accidentally.

He says he was at a party the night before undergoing the drug test, where illegal substances were taken by others.

In May 2013, his commanding officer said the only credible reason for the positive test was voluntary consumption and recommended his discharge.

That decision was appealed within the army.

Last November, the officer hearing the appeal  determined Pvt Maher had failed to produce any evidence to substantiate his claim that he had ingested the drug passively or accidentally.

He then brought proceedings against the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General, seeking an order quashing the decision to discharge him.

He claimed, among other things, there was a failure to provide him with copies of scientific opinion which the appeals officer relied upon.

He also claimed there was a failure to take proper account of a medical report submitted on his behalf, or of his argument he had ingested cocaine accidentally.

Mr Justice Noonan dismissed all of Pvt Maher's arguments.

The explanation that he somehow ingested cocaine accidentally was found not to be credible.

In the court's view, there was nothing irrational, unreasonable or unfair in the decision to recommend Pvt Maher be discharged, he said.

The Judge put a stay on Pvt Maher's discharge pending appeal.

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