ú10,000 award for ex-prison officers' leader

 

A former president of the Prison Officers' Association was yesterday awarded ú10,000 damages against the POA over the circumstances of his removal from office five years ago.

Mr PJ McEvoy (50) was elected president of the association in March 1992 and was removed from that post seven months later after the national executive council passed a motion of no confidence in him.

Mr McEvoy brought an action against the association over his removal, which was was heard by Mr Justice McCracken earlier this year. Delivering his reserved judgment yesterday, Mr Justice McCracken said a POA national executive committee meeting on July 29th, 1992, at which Mr McEvoy presided, had become extremely heated. Mr McEvoy purported to close the meeting and left. The chair was taken by the vice-chairman and the meeting continued. It passed a "vote of censure" on Mr McEvoy.

At a meeting on October 29th that year it was proposed that the agenda be altered so that the vote of no confidence in Mr McEvoy would be taken as the first item.

Mr McEvoy objected to this. In a vote on the issue it was agreed by 14-3 to alter the normal agenda.

Mr McEvoy asked that the reasons for the proposal be supplied to him in writing and that he be given an opportunity to make representations. The proposer said the basis of the motion was related to Mr McEvoy's handling of meetings as chairman and made no further allegations.

Mr Justice McCracken said it was clear the provisions of natural and constitutional justice were not complied with at the meeting, notwithstanding the protests of Mr McEvoy.

Mr McEvoy was given no opportunity to prepare any form of rebuttal, as he did not know what he had to rebut.

Accordingly, the former POA president was entitled to succeed in the action, the judge said.

There was no doubt his reputation had suffered to some degree through the wrongful act of the POA. He had also suffered some considerable mental distress as a result of the events. In reality, he would probably find it impossible to stand for office again which, while not causing him any financial loss, was deserving of some compensation, the judge said. He awarded ú10,000 damages.

The judge also made a declaration that the motion of no confidence on October 29th, 1992, which removed Mr McEvoy, was passed contrary to the requirements of fair procedures and to the dictates of natural and constitutional justice.

A stay of 21 days was granted in case of appeal.