| 10.1°C Dublin

Salesman wins payout over false jail claim

A CAR salesman is to receive an undisclosed sum of money after Dublin City Council wrongly accused him in the High Court of having spent nearly 10 years in prison.

Gary O'Brien, of Ryders Row, Dublin, had faced proceedings by the local authority seeking to make him vacate three council-owned properties which he said he had to take over in 1988 to ensure the security of his Parnell Car Sales business.

He opposed the council's proceedings to take possession of two properties on Ryders Row and one on Capel Street, saying he had not trespassed but had been forced to put locks on their doors to stop people breaking into his car business at Ryders Row.

In its case seeking orders to make him vacate, the city council claimed he could not have been in possession because he served nearly 10 years in Mount-joy between 1992 and 2001.

Opening the council's case yesterday, Dominick Hussey said they would be calling evidence in the afternoon from a Mountjoy prison officer to show Mr O'Brien had served two terms between 1992 and 1997 and 1997 and 2001.

When the case resumed after lunch, Mr Hussey said the information he had was inaccurate and he would not be calling the prison officer. He said mistaken information had been provided by a private investigator in 2003 and this was compounded by information which had been obtained from the prison service.

Counsel said he wished to withdraw the claim about Mr O'Brien's imprisonment and for any imputation he (counsel) may have made during his opening.

High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said he was "staggered" that Mr O'Brien had been wrongly accused of serving a prison sentence for what could only have been one of the "most serious crimes in the lexicon of crime".

Following an adjournment, Mr Hussey said a settlement had been agreed on the basis that an order of possession of the three properties involved would be made in the council's favour and a sum of money would be paid to Mr O'Brien who was also awarded his costs.

Earlier, the council claimed a man calling himself John O'Neill had, around 1996, surrendered the keys to the three properties to the city council. It claimed Mr O'Brien subsequently unlawfully entered the properties and has been trespassing since.

Mr O'Brien told the court the only John O'Neill he knew was his brother-in-law who had not authority from him to deal with the properties.

He said he had been forced to secure the properties adjoining his, by putting locks on the doors, in 1988 because his business was being broken into.