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Suspended solicitor fails in bid to halt inquiry over ‘very serious misconduct’ allegations


Suspended solicitor Declan O’Callaghan. Photo: Collins Courts

Suspended solicitor Declan O’Callaghan. Photo: Collins Courts

Suspended solicitor Declan O’Callaghan. Photo: Collins Courts

A suspended solicitor has failed in a legal bid to halt an inquiry into allegations of “very serious misconduct” made against him.

The High Court has refused to grant various reliefs sought by Declan O’Callaghan, including one seeking a prohibition on the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal taking any further steps in its inquiry.

The solicitor, who is based in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, is facing claims of professional negligence over his alleged conduct in a land deal 16 years ago.

He brought legal proceedings seeking the halting of the inquiry on a number of technical grounds. However, in a ruling today, Mr Justice Anthony Barr refused the reliefs sought.

Mr O’Callaghan has been suspended from acting as a solicitor since 2018 due to concerns about other matters raised in an independent solicitor’s report, including that he withdrew substantial fees from the estate of a bereaved child.

The tribunal is to conduct a hearing into complaints from a Mayo concrete products manufacturing firm, Nirvanna Property Holdings Ltd.

The company alleges Mr O’Callaghan purported to act for both the vendor and purchaser in a transaction where there was a clear conflict of interest.

It also claims Mr O’Callaghan provided inadequate professional services and was in breach of his duty of care. He had vehemently denied the claims.

His legal action aimed at halting the inquiry centred on a tribunal hearing in February 2020 during which Nirvanna director Tom Fleming acted for the company.

An objection was raised by a lawyer for Mr O’Callaghan because a limited company cannot be represented by its managing director or other officers. The tribunal adjourned the hearing after Mr Fleming sought time to hire a solicitor.

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During a two-day judicial review application last month, counsel for Mr O’Callaghan argued the tribunal should have proceeded to adjudicate on the complaint.

Counsel claimed the tribunal erroneously gave itself jurisdiction to postpone the hearing based on an application from Mr Fleming, who, it was argued, had no standing to request an adjournment.

Mr O’Callaghan sought to have the tribunal adjournment overruled by the court and also wanted an order of prohibition, preventing the tribunal from taking any further steps in the inquiry.

The application was opposed by the tribunal, whose counsel argued Mr O’Callaghan was effectively trying to force the abandonment of the entire inquiry into allegations of “very serious misconduct” on the basis of what was, at best, a procedural and technical point.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Barr said he was satisfied the tribunal had jurisdiction under its rules of procedure to grant the adjournment. He said the tribunal had acted reasonably, logically and in accordance with the dictates of fairness and justice.

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