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Casino wins leave to request judge be stopped from hearing case

Galway casino charged with selling alcohol without liquor licence

The casino operator claims remarks made by Judge Mary Fahy in a previous case concerning the casino lead to an apprehension of bias and pre-determination. Photograph: iStock

A Galway-based casino charged with selling alcoholic beverages without a liquor licence has secured permission from the High Court to bring proceedings aimed at preventing a particular District Court judge hearing the prosecution.

Midnight Entertainment Ltd claims remarks made by Judge Mary Fahy in a previous case concerning the casino lead to an apprehension of bias and pre-determination in the proceedings pending before Galway District Court.

Midnight Entertainment, which operates the 4 Aces Club, Dominick Street, is charged with selling certain intoxicating liquor on November 28th, 2015 without being licensed to do so contrary to Section 7 of the 1924 Intoxicating Liquor Act.

The company denies any wrongdoing, says it is a private members club and does not require a liquor licence, and will defend the prosecution.

At the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan granted leave to the company to take judicial review proceedings aimed at having Judge Fahy recuse herself hearing the prosecution.

There was “at least an arguable ground” Judge Fahy ought to have recused herself and in dealing with the application for recusal did not apply the correct principles, he said.

He also stressed the application before him only concerned leave to bring the case and a further High Court hearing will determine if the casino operator was entitled to the reliefs sought.

DPP opposition

The Director of Public Prosecutions had opposed the application for leave and argued the company should not be permitted to bring the challenge.

Represented by Seamus Clarke SC, instructed by McSweeney & Co Solicitors, Midnight Entertainment claims there had been a similar prosecution against a director of the company some 18 months previously.

On that occasion, Judge Fahy found the director guilty, imposed a six-month suspended prison sentence and remarked, if the premises was a “genuine casino” it “must” have a liquor licence, it said.

The conviction was overturned on appeal to the Circuit Court.

When the second prosecution came before the District Court last January the company asked Judge Fahy to recuse herself from hearing the case, which she refused to do.

The judge said she did not remember making the comments and, if she was to recuse herself hearing cases in the district where the same defendant appears, she would be required to recuse herself in many cases.

The casino operator claims the remarks give rise to a reasonable apprehension the company would not receive a fair hearing from an impartial judge.

It claims Judge Fahy acted outside her jurisdiction and unreasonably and irrationally by not recusing herself.