Alleged conspiracy dismissed as 'abuse of process of court'

 

Tracey Anor -v- Ireland Ors

IEHC [2010] 486

High Court

Judgment was delivered on June 29th, 2010, by Mr Justice Peter Charleton

Judgment

An action taken by a couple alleging that 23 defendants – including various members of the Garda Síochána, the DPP, the Attorney General, two judges and some neighbours, among them two small boys – had engaged in a conspiracy to breach their constitutional rights was dismissed as an abuse of the process of the court.

Background

The case had its origins in an incident in 2003 where two small boys were kicking a football in the street outside Kevin and Karen Tracey’s house and the ball hit their porch, without causing any damage. Mr Tracey took the ball and put it in his porch.

Some time later, a neighbour, who happens to be an inspector in An Garda Síochána, came and retrieved the ball, allegedly pushing Mr Tracey in the process.

Mr Tracey went to the local Garda station and made a formal complaint about the incident, following it up with a complaint to the Garda Complaints Board on May 12th, 2003. This was dismissed.

In March 2004, Mr Tracey was charged with assault on the mother of one of the boys. He claimed this was orchestrated against him by Circuit Court Judge Michael White because of his complaint to the Garda Complaints Board.

In the District Court, Judge Michael Connellan convicted him on the assault charge and applied the Probation Act – meaning the court did not proceed to a formal conviction or impose any penalty.

Mr Tracey appealed that finding to the Circuit Court, which affirmed the District Court order.

No judicial review was taken of this decision, or of the District Court decision, or of the decision of the Garda Complaints Board. Instead, Mr Tracey took plenary proceedings alleging conspiracy and assault against 23 defendants.

The first three defendants are Ireland, the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, alleged to be vicariously responsible for the wrongs allegedly done. The then minister, Michael McDowell, was also sued in a personal capacity for not stopping the conspiracy, as was the DPP, James Hamilton, along with two of his officials, for their part in it.

Others were sued for allegedly making false statements, and various members of the Garda Síochána, including the Commissioner, the Courts Service Board and three judges were also all alleged to have participated in the conspiracy.

The defendants sought to have the proceedings struck out as an abuse of process.

Decision

“The courts are not an open house for the airing of causeless grievances, albeit that these are draped in legal language and parcelled inside a form of apparently valid legal pleading such as a statement of claim,” Mr Justice Charleton said.

“ pleading cannot be separated into a valid element and an element which is not vexatious, or not an abuse of the process of the court . . . The particulars pleaded in the statement of claim make it clear that all the facts alleged are intricately and inextricably connected with each other,” he said.

It was judicially recorded as a fact in both the District and the Circuit Court that Mr Tracey had assaulted Ms Skinner, the mother of one of the boys, even though he received the benefit of the Probation Act. This was the order of the court, and as a matter of legal record the facts as alleged were proven.

“The entirety of this case is an abuse of the process of the court,” Mr Justice Charleton said. “It is born of a motivation to overcome the finding of fact by the District Court and the affirmation of that finding of fact by the Circuit Court.”

If there was anything wrong with the manner in which this court, and the Circuit Court, proceeded to find facts against the plaintiff, a judicial review application should have been brought.

Instead, the judges found themselves facing civil proceedings.

There was nothing in the actions of any of the defendants to suggest they joined together in order to attack the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs. There was not a screed of evidence to support the claim, he said, dismissing the action.

The full judgment is on www.courts.ie

The plaintiffs represented themselves; the defendants were represented by the Chief State Solicitor