Shatter challenges Guerin report findings in High Court

Former minister alleges objective bias and ‘indecent haste’ in compilation of report

Fromer minister for justice Alan Shatter who is challenging the findings of the Guerin report in the High Court. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fromer minister for justice Alan Shatter who is challenging the findings of the Guerin report in the High Court. Photograph: The Irish Times

Wed, Jul 30, 2014, 21:59

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has initiated a High Court challenge aimed at quashing certain findings of the Guerin report concerning Mr Shatter’s handling of complaints by Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The report rendered his position as minister for justice “untenable” and has inflicted “severe and irreversible” damage on him in the political context, he claims.

Mr Shatter is alleging breach of fair procedures and natural justice and “indecent haste” on the part of senior counsel Seán Guerin in how he compiled his report between March 4th and publication on May 6th and reached conclusions critical of the minister, his counsel Patrick O’Reilly SC outlined.

Mr Shatter also alleges Mr Guerin’s membership, while preparing his report, of a Bar Council committee which criticised aspects of Mr Shatter’s Legal Services Bill, is among various factors giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias.

Mr Shatter stresses he is not alleging actual bias.

A “particularly serious consequence” of Mr Guerin’s failure to interview him as minister prior to the report’s publication was that Mr Guerin had misread a letter of advice received by the Department of Justice from the office of the Attorney General on December 18th, 2013, concerning the approach to Sgt McCabe’s complaints, it is alleged.

Alleged misreading

Had the alleged misreading not occurred, Mr Guerin would not have reached certain conclusions adverse to the minister, it is claimed.

Mr Shatter also alleges Mr Guerin omitted from his report part of the advice which, Mr Shatter claims, recommended the McCabe claims be dealt with in a manner “entirely opposite to the approach subsequently recommended by Mr Guerin”.

Mr Shatter resigned on May 7th, a day after publication of the Guerin report, and claims he was given “no notice whatsoever” by Mr Guerin he intended “to pass judgment on my actions as minister”.

He claims he should have been afforded the opportunity to provide Mr Guerin with relevant information that would have assisted him in obtaining “a rigorously accurate understanding” of the events surrounding Sgt McCabe’s complaints and Mr Shatter’s approach to those, which could have resulted in Mr Guerin not drawing the disputed conclusions.

Disputed conclusions

The disputed conclusions include Mr Shatter did not cause Sgt McCabe’s allegations to be investigated but accepted the Garda commissioner’s response to the sergeant’s complaints without question.

Mr Shatter claims those conclusions and the procedure adopted in reaching them have caused him “severe reputational harm” as a public official and lawyer and “in the context of any position I may wish to take up in the future”.

In the political context, the damage was “severe and irreversible”.

The conclusion he failed to heed the voice of Sgt McCabe and the attendant adverse public attention given to that issue “has caused public opprobrium to be incorrectly and unfairly placed upon me”.

He was concerned these issues would “unnecessarily and unfairly” be considered by a commission of investigation and public perception of his actions as minister would remain coloured by the Guerin report conclusions.

Ms Justice Marie Baker yesterday granted leave to Mr O’Reilly to bring the judicial review proceedings against Mr Guerin and returned the matter to the next law term.