Judge pulls out of CRH case over shares
A High Court judge has said he will cease managing a long-running action by Goode Concrete against cement giant CRH and other companies over alleged anti-competitive practices after the Goode firm expressed concern that the purchase of CRH shares on behalf of the judge raised a reasonable apprehension of objective bias.
Mr Justice John Cooke yesterday stressed he had told the sides in November 2010, when he took up the case, that he had had a CRH shareholding but neither side raised any difficulty with that. The judge said he was unaware at that time that shares in CRH were also about to be bought on his behalf by advisers as part of a package of several shareholdings.
It seemed, from investigations by the Goode side, that purchase was made on December 6th, 2010, but he was unaware of that, he said.
This motion for him to recuse himself from hearing the case was not necessary as, if anyone had had “the courtesy” to point out that matter to him, he would have dealt with it immediately and “quite happily” have saved himself the task of three written judgments (on pre-trial issues in the proceedings to date), he said.
Now that concern had been voiced, the case would have to be transferred to another judge, he said. That would take time, and in all the circumstances, he would adjourn it generally with liberty to either side to re-enter. The purchase of shares was being used for the “insinuation” that he, after taking up the case, then went out and bought more shares, the judge said.
Addressing John Hennessy SC, for Goode Concrete, the judge said counsel would have “to take my word for it” he was unaware of the share purchase.
No insinuation intended
Counsel said that he wanted to make it clear there was no insinuation intended that there was anything wrongful in what the court did and the application for the judge to recuse himself from hearing the case was on the basis of a reasonable apprehension of objective bias. Paul Sreenan SC, for CRH, said the issue was for the court but his side was not to be taken as agreeing there was any basis for the application.The judge said that, for 12 years to 2008, he had lived in Luxembourg where he served on the European Court of Justice.
Returning to Ireland, he and his wife sold their house in Luxembourg and the proceeds were transferred to Ireland and managed by advisers.
Goode Concrete has sued CRH, Roadstone Wood Ltd and Kilsaran Concrete over alleged anti-competitive practices which, it is alleged, forced the collapse of Goode Concrete early last year.