Thursday 23 May 2019

Ryanair lands ?1m legal bill over failed pilots action

Ann O'Loughlin

RYANAIR was yesterday landed with an ?1m legal bill .

High Court judge Mr Justice Thomas Smyth ruled the no-frills airline has to fork out all the costs of its failed seven-day court action against pilots.

The carrier also has to pay all the other costs surrounding the action and experts said the legal bill could be as high as ?1m.

Last week the judge threw out a bid by the airline to find out who was behind messages on its pilots' website and in a strongly worded ruling said the only evidence of bullying was by Ryanair.

The judge said he was satisfied there were no threats or intimidation by pilots or unions of the type contended by Ryanair.

He also made a finding of false evidence in relation to two of Ryanair management who had given evidence in the witness box.

Yesterday the judge said he had no doubt that all the costs should be awarded to the pilots' associations against Ryanair. He said it is to include the cost of the action before the High Court and all other applications and even the cost of the daily transcript.

He refused to put a stay on the costs order in the event of an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Referring to his strongly worded judgment last week in which he made a finding of false evidence against two of Ryanair management, Mr Justice Smyth said it was only the second time in his career on the bench that he had to say things he found extremely difficult to say which could not be left unsaid.

Mr Justice Smyth dismissed a bid by Ryanair for orders aimed at identifying pilots who posted messages under codenames on a pilots' website.

The judge also held that, when Ryanair set up an investigation to find out who was behind the website, the real purpose was to "break the resolve" of the pilots to seek better terms and conditions. There was no warrant for Ryanair's action in seeking assistance from the gardai.

Ryanair had sought a number of orders against Neil Johnston, an official with IMPACT; the Irish Airline Pilots Association and its British counterpart, BALPA.

Earlier yesterday counsel for BALPA Michael Cush SC asked for full indemnity costs in the case. There should, he said, be something penal in the nature of the order sought.

The Ryanair case, he said, had been launched on the back on what the court found was not a bona fide investigation but was a "feigned exercise".

Counsel for Mr Johnston and IALPA, Bran O'Moore SC, said the entire case was driven by deceit. It was the witnesses that Ryanair had to subpeona who were found to be truthful.

Ryanair counsel Richard Nesbitt SC said it appeared the feeling of victory had brought the right to demand more than the ordinary.

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