Garda wins right to have disciplinary inquiry reheard

 

A GARDA who claimed he was victimised because he stopped the then minister for justice's State car for speeding eight years ago has secured High Court orders overturning a direction he resign from the force following disciplinary proceedings against him.

A new board will now be constituted to carry out a fresh disciplinary inquiry.

Garda Thomas Noonan, based in Listowel Garda station, Co Kerry, brought High Court judicial review proceedings against the Garda Commissioner over the manner in which the disciplinary proceedings were conducted in his case. He claimed the chairman of an internal disciplinary appeal board was biased against him and sought orders overturning the board's findings.

The court heard the board dealt with matters concerning Garda Noonan's fitness for duty which were not related to his stopping for alleged speeding the State car of the then minister for justice, now Ceann Comhairle, John O'Donoghue, on September 10th, 2000.

Less than a month after the incident, Mr O'Donoghue told the Dáil the car had been stopped for travelling at 86mph (138km/h), but he was not in it at the time. He said the car had been carrying his wife, children and a family friend who were returning from the All-Ireland hurling final. He added he would not disown the incident, although he had no personal responsibility for it.

During yesterday's proceedings, Garda Noonan said he was the garda "who stopped John O'Donoghue for speeding and I was asked by the commissioner to state he [O'Donoghue] was not in the car and I refused to do so".

In his action, Garda Noonan said a solicitor, Frank Ward, whom he claimed has represented Mr O'Donoghue, was appointed chairman of the disciplinary board in his case and could not therefore have dealt fairly with him.

He claimed the board, appointed by the commissioner, had directed on February 18th last he should resign from the force by midnight on March 13th.

When the case came before the High Court yesterday counsel for the commissioner said his side would consent to orders quashing the disciplinary board's decision. The commissioner will now appoint a new board.

Counsel for Garda Noonan said, while his side was prepared to accept this, Garda Noonan was anxious to raise "ancillary issues". He was "not happy" with what was being offered, his counsel said.

Counsel for the State said any issues that Garda Noonan had were not part of these proceedings and if he was not satisfied with any future disciplinary proceedings he could "take steps as he sees fit."

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill told Garda Noonan the court could not deal with matters which did not come within the existing proceedings. Garda Noonan told the judge the same person who appointed Frank Ward chairperson of the disciplinary tribunal would be appointing any new chairman of a new board. After giving lawyers for both sides time to consult, the judge was told Garda Noonan had considered his position and was consenting to the quashing orders being made. He granted an order quashing the disciplinary board's decision and granted Garda Noonan his costs.

Asked last night to respond to the Garda Noonan's allegations, a spokesman for Mr O'Donoghue said his "answer is on the public record".