Thursday 23 November 2017

State to pay Guerin costs in Shatter's court battle

Sean Guerin SC
Sean Guerin SC

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

The Government will cover barrister Sean Guerin's legal costs arising out of his High Court battle with former justice minister Alan Shatter.

A spokesperson confirmed that a decision has been taken to indemnify Mr Guerin, who authored an explosive report into claims of serious garda misconduct.

Mr Shatter issued High Court proceedings last month aimed at quashing certain findings of the report, which prompted 
his resignation as Justice Minister.

The Dublin South TD has challenged Mr Guerin's finding that he did not properly handle claims of garda misconduct made by garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Shatter also claims that his failure to be interviewed as part of the Guerin review represents an "abuse" of fair procedure.

The TD argues the report rendered his position as justice minister "untenable" and inflicted "severe and irreversible" damage on him in the political context. He resigned from Cabinet on May 7.

A judge last month granted permission to Mr Shatter's lawyers to bring judicial review proceedings. The matter comes back before the High Court in October.

There have deep tensions between Mr Shatter and Taoiseach Enda Kenny since the publication of the Guerin report, which recommended the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry.

It's now emerged that all legal costs incurred by Mr Guerin will be covered by the Government. A spokesperson told the Irish Independent that indemnifying Mr Guerin is "standard procedure" given that the report was commissioned by the Government.

"Mr Guerin is being given the same legal cover as a civil servant. It is standard procedure and has been applied before," the spokesperson added.

According to an affidavit filed in the High Court, Mr Shatter alleges objective bias, an absence of fair procedure and "indecent haste" on behalf of Mr Guerin.

He said he is not asserting that the report's author was actually biased but raised concern over the fact that Mr Guerin was, during the course of his review, a member of the Professional Practices Committee (PCC) of the Bar Council, the ruling body for barristers.

Mr Shatter said the PCC had openly criticised provisions of the Legal Services Bill, which he was "singularly associated with through the legislature".

As revealed earlier this week, Mr Guerin has yet to submit an invoice to the Government relating to the costs he incurred in completing his report.

Retired judge John Cooke, who produced a report on the alleged bugging at the Office of the Garda Ombudsman, invoiced for €10,500 for the cost of producing the report.

The majority of the expense incurred by Mr Cooke related to 'stenography' - the transcribing of notes by a professional.

A total of €6,043 was spent on this service, while a further €4,242 was spent on secretarial and IT facilities.

The remainder of Mr Cooke's bill, which was paid for by the Department of Justice, related to mobile phone expenses, postage and stationery and office supplies.

The overall bill incurred by Mr Cooke and his staff totalled €10,474, according to the Department of Justice.

Irish Independent

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