Monday 16 December 2019

Wallace's silence on Shatter action speaks volumes, judge told

Mick Wallace TD, pictured arriving at the Four Courts yesterday (Tues)
Mick Wallace TD, pictured arriving at the Four Courts yesterday (Tues)
Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter

Ray Managh

INDEPENDENT TD Mick Wallace's silence as to what legal action he may take against former Justice Minister Alan Shatter over comments made about the Wexford TD on RTE's 'Prime Time' programme "speaks volumes," a judge was told.

The former Justice Minister had appealed against the Data Protection Commissioner's (DPCs) decision that Mr Shatter had breached data protection laws in announcing on television that Mr Wallace had benefited from garda discretion in relation to using a mobile phone while driving.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane in the Circuit Civil Court yesterday reserved her judgement in the appeal.

The case centred around the programme in which the Minister revealed that in May 2012 Mr Wallace had been stopped by gardai in relation to his use of a mobile phone while driving and told that a fixed penalty charge could issue and he could be given penalty points.

The Garda had used his discretion and simply warned him not to do it again and the incident was not recorded on the gardai's internal PULSE system. The subsequent controversy became known as "Shattergate".

Yesterday, Senior Counsel Eileen Barrington, for Mr Shatter, told the judge that Mr Wallace "doesn't have to tell the court what his position is but it speaks volumes that he won't."

Ms Barrington told the Circuit Civil Court that Mr Shatter continued to be of the view that any legal action that would be taken by Mr Wallace would be taken against him and not against the current Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Responding to legal argument, Ms Barrington suggested the court should find there was no basis for deciding Mr Shatter had no legal standing to appeal Commissioner Billy Hawkes's decision. She said everything flowed from the finding that Mr Shatter was a data controller, albeit carrying only in his head information that had been passed to him in a discussion with the Garda Commissioner.

If Mr Shatter could not appeal the Commissioner's finding, which carried consequences for him, then nobody could and that could not be right.

"In the very last paragraph of a one-page analysis of his 12-page decision, the Data Commissioner concludes with a references to damages and states that data controllers are liable to an individual for damages if they fail to observe a duty of care towards them," Ms Barrington said.

The court heard last Monday that Mr Shatter did not make a note for the information and that it merely "resided in his mind".

Ms Barrington said Mr Shatter would be concerned if the data protection laws could be used to regulate information or the processing of information in someone's mind.

Ms Barrington said the notice party to the appeal, Mr Wallace, did not have to tell the court what his decision was but it spoke volumes that he would not.

Irish Independent

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