Court challenge brought by Garda whistleblower

Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 01:38

One of the whistleblowers behind the Garda penalty points controversy has brought a High Court challenge to findings that he breached disciplinary regulations arising from his attendance, while off-duty, at court proceedings in Cavan.

John Wilson, with an address in Cavan town, wants orders quashing decisions of May 2012 that he acted in breach of Garda discipline by refusing to answer why he was in attendance at the Cavan court proceedings.

Mr Wilson, who retired from the Garda earlier this year having joined the force in 1982, is challenging findings that he, in neglect of duty, failed to promptly reply to the divisional officer of the Cavan/Monaghan division concerning correspondence dated January 31st, 2012, and March 6th, 2012.

In the January 31st correspondence, an explanation was sought from Mr Wilson as to why, when he was not on duty and not in uniform, he was at Cavan courthouse in the presence of Walter and Genevieve Smith who were co-defendants in a case being heard.

The March 6th correspondence also sought that Mr Wilson comply with the directions dated January 31st, 2012.

Entitled not to answer
In submissions on behalf of Mr Wilson yesterday, Mark Harty SC argued his client was entitled not to answer the questions put to him. The finding this amounted to a breach of discipline was made in excess of the relevant Garda regulations, he argued.

Lawful order
Opposing the application, Eileen Barrington SC, for the Garda respondents and the State, argued that failure to carry out a lawful order amounted to a neglect of duty. There was no basis for the claim the findings were in excess of the relevant Garda regulations, she submitted.

Having heard from the sides, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said she was reserving her judgment.

In an affidavit for the case, Mr Wilson said he had been stationed at Clones Garda station from 2002.

When he got the correspondence seeking an explanation for his attendance at the Cavan court proceedings, he initially thought it was “a wind-up or a joke”, he said.

Having established the correspondence was genuine, he was “astonished” as he had done nothing wrong but was being asked to account for his movements while off duty.

In another affidavit, Garda Chief Supt James Sheridan said he was concerned that Mr Wilson’s presence, while off duty at Cavan courthouse in circumstances connected to the administration of justice in a case *, could give rise to an apprehension of lack of impartiality on the part of the force with regard to that case.

* This article was amended on Monday, December 23rd, 2013