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Sunday 22 April 2018

New row for Shatter as judge embroiled in penalty points scandal

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and, inset, former garda John Wilson
Justice Minister Alan Shatter and, inset, former garda John Wilson

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) are examining accusations a judge put pressure on a garda whistleblower to withdraw allegations against a senior member of the force.

The sensational claims were made in sworn statements by former garda John Wilson to the gardai and GSOC, which have been seen by the Irish Independent.

Mr Wilson has alleged the judge attempted to pervert the course of justice by asking him to drop a complaint about a senior officer who cancelled the penalty points of a number of people.

Mr Shatter said last night he was seeking legal advice over the claims.

It is the first time a member of the judiciary has been implicated in the series of controversies which has rocked the gardai in recent months, culminating in the resignation of Commissioner Martin Callinan earlier this week.

The judge at the centre of the allegations has confirmed he met Mr Wilson, but denies pressurising him to withdraw the complaint.

Mr Shatter was informed of the allegations against the judge almost four weeks ago on March 2.

Department of Justice officials yesterday sought to arrange a meeting with representatives of Mr Wilson, who is currently recovering after surgery for bowel cancer, to discuss the matter.

The Justice Minister continues to battle to hang on to his job amid the fallout from the garda taping of telphone conversations and the furore over his handling of both the penalty points and GSOC "bugging" controversies.

In statements to the gardai and GSOC, Mr Wilson said two meetings took place between him and the judge in 2013, both at the judge's behest.

The first meeting is said to have taken place in February, when Mr Wilson was still a member of the force.

He alleges the judge advised him to drop claims he had been making at the time about the abuse of the penalty points system, and urged him to retire and "forget about all this nonsense".

Mr Wilson claims the judge said he would help him find work as a driver if he quit the force.

The judge is also alleged to have made a number of derogatory comments about a female politician in the course of the meeting.

A second meeting is alleged to have taken place, again at the request of the judge, in May of last year, by which time Mr Wilson had retired.

The judge is alleged to have urged Mr Wilson to drop a complaint he had made against a named senior officer "as a favour" to him.

He is also alleged to have made derogatory comments about Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Wilson said he told the judge he would not withdraw the allegation against the senior officer, and he had already been interviewed by a chief superintendent who investigated his claims under the garda anti-fraud policy.

Mr Callinan told the Dail's Public Accounts Committee in January that a garda file on this investigation was being considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Details of the two meetings were outlined in a statement to gardai in August of last year.

A second statement, reiterating the allegations against the judge, was made to GSOC last December, and the Ombudsman is now examining whether or not it will launch an inquiry.

In the GSOC statement, Mr Wilson said he believed the approach by the judge was "an attempt to pervert the course of justice".

In legal correspondence, solicitors acting for the judge confirmed that he had two meetings with Mr Wilson.

However, they disputed the allegations made by Mr Wilson, saying: "At no stage did our client ever suggest to you or anyone else to withdraw a criminal complaint against anyone and that accusation is categorically denied."

The judge's solicitors also accused Mr Wilson of making "unfounded, vexatious and unsubstantiated allegations".

The solicitors' letter does not explain the purpose of the first meeting. However, it contends the second meeting was to discuss matters other than Mr Wilson's complaint against the senior garda.

The Justice Minister was informed of the allegations earlier this month by independent councillor Frank McBrearty Jnr.

An adviser to Mr Shatter yesterday requested a meeting with representatives of Mr Wilson to discuss the issues raised. She said the minister was also seeking legal advice on how to deal with the matter.

Irish Independent

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