Alleged perjury during ‘in camera’ hearings can be investigated, court rules

High Court declaration comes after man alleged he was perjured in childcare proceedings

 

A man involved in childcare proceedings who wanted to allege perjury against witnesses in his case has secured a declaration from the High Court that alleged crimes that may have occurred during in camera hearings can be investigated.

The solicitor who acted in the case, Clifford Sullivan, of LawPlus solicitors, said the declaration was an important clarification of the law and that up to this there was a doubt in the minds of members of An Garda Síochána that they could investigate what happened during in camera hearings (hearings from which the public are excluded).

“The man felt that perjury had been committed and that that perjury caused the judge in his case to make a decision against him,” Mr Sullivan said.

Following his case the man, who cannot be identified, sought to bring criminal proceedings at District Court level as a “common informer”.

When this was refused, the man, acting as a lay litigant, lost a challenge to the decision in the High Court. He then appealed to the Supreme Court, at which point Mr Sullivan became involved.

Draft application

The Supreme Court then helped draft an application which was sent back to the High Court, where the man asked for a declaration that “a prosecution for a criminal offence allegedly occurring during the course of civil proceedings heard in a court of law otherwise than in public (in camera) is capable of being investigated and prosecuted as prescribed by law”.

The application was not opposed by the State and the declaration was made by Mr Justice Séamus Noonan late last month. It has not been reported before. The man received legal representation from Mr Sullivan and barristers Dervla Browne SC and Brendan Guildea.

Mr Sullivan said the declaration could be relevant to cases of allegations of perjury – intentionally lying in court – or attempts to pervert the course of justice, which arose from in camera proceedings.

He said it was now clear, as a result of the declaration, that people who felt that a possible crime had been committed during proceedings that were held in camera can go to An Garda Síochána and that gardaí can investigate the complaint.