Court reserves judgment in Lawlor appeal

 

The Supreme Court today reserved judgment in the appeal by Mr Liam Lawlor against a further term of imprisonment on charges of contempt.

The Dublin West TD was seeking to overturn a decision by the High Court in July which ruled for a second time that he had failed to co-operate fully with the Flood tribunal and disclose all documents relating to his financial affairs.

The ruling by Justice Symth sentenced Mr Lawlor to one week in jail and fined £5,000 but he was granted a stay pending the outcome of the appeal being heard before five judges of the Supreme Court, headed by Mr Justice Ronan Keane.

Last January Mr Lawlor spent one week in Mountjoy Jail and was fined £10,000 for failing to co-operate with the tribunal.

This morning Mr John Trainor SC, counsel for Mr Lawlor, told the court the appeal was being made on three points - that there had been compliance with the original January 15th order and therefore there was no basis for a finding of default, that if there was failure it was of a technical nature only and that the penalty was harsh and inappropriate.

Mr Trainor argued the ruling of Justice Symth in July was a conspectus, or general, one and that although Mr Lawlor may have failed to produce every last piece of documentation he was asked to, he had furnished the tribunal with what he had been able to discover.

Mr Trainor noted Mr Lawlor had sworn 66 further affidavits of discovery containing some 25,000 documents.

Mr Trainor said where Mr Lawlor had failed to produce documentation, in particular in relation to land purchased near Mr Lawlor's home in Lucan in 1987, Judge Smyth should have dealt with the matter by ordering the swearing of additional affidavits, which Mr Lawlor would have done his utmost to comply with.

However Mr Frank Clarke SC counsel for the Tribunal told the court Mr Lawlor’s failure to comply pre-dated the first court case and that he had had a minimum of two occasions on which to comply.

Mr Clarke said it was important the Tribunal be able to go about its urgent business of public importance.

"Where there is a consistent failure to comply it is important that this is marked with some punitive action. Otherwise there are a whole range of actions that could be taken to obstruct the procedure of the Tribunal," he said.

"The judge was faced with a situation where he was perfectly entitled to direct the swearing of another affadavit but to have left it at that would have been inappropriate. Compliance with an order of this type is important, it was about the third formal opportunity for Mr Lawlor to comply."

However Mr Trainor said the judge had taken an unfair and extreme view on what were small omissions on an overwhelmingly long list of documents.

Justice Keane said he understood the importance of the matter to the Tribunal and to Mr Lawlor and promised a ruling as soon as possible.