The High Court has quashed and referred back for reconsideration a decision by the Minister for Justice not to grant former politician Ivor Callely enhanced remission from the prison sentence he received for fraudulently claiming Oireachtas expenses.
In a lengthy judgment, Mr Justice Anthony Barr held the Minister had fallen into error when refusing to grant Callely enhanced remission as it appeared she had failed to take all of the relevant matters into account when arriving at her decision.
In the circumstances, the judge quashed the Minister’s refusal to grant Callely enhanced remission and ruled the application should go back to the Minister for reconsideration.
Had his challenge been dismissed, Callely who was present in court yesterday, faced being returned to prison for six days to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Callely had been on bail on his own bond of €100 pending the outcome of the legal challenge to the decision of the Minister for Justice and the governor of Wheatfield Prison in Dublin not to grant him temporary release.
The State parties denied the claims and opposed the action.
The former Fianna Fáil minister of state, TD and senator brought proceedings over the refusal to grant him enhanced remission and temporary release from a five-month sentence he received last July after admitting he fraudulently claimed €4,207.45 expenses from the Oireachtas on forged mobile phone invoices.
Callely was committed to Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, on July 28th. He was deemed to be vulnerable in the prison setting and was transferred to Wheatfield Prison, west Dublin, on August 1st.
He was automatically entitled to 25 per cent remission, like every other prisoner in the system, and because of that was due for release on November 18th, 2014, having spent exactly 150 days in prison.
He first applied for temporary release on August 28th, some 28 days into his sentence. That was refused and further applications followed on September 17th and October 21st and 23rd.
On October 17th, after his first two applications for temporary release were refused, he applied for enhanced remission of one-third of his jail term.
On November 7th when both his request for temporary release and enhanced remission had been rejected by Tony Hickey of the Irish Prison Service operations directorate, Callely commenced a legal challenge.
He sought a judicial review of the refusal of the Minister for Justice, via the prison service, to refuse him both temporary release and enhance remission.
He was granted bail on November 12th pending the outcome of his challenge, leaving prison that day and with just six days to serve on his original five-month sentence.
That decision has now been delivered by Mr Justice Barr, who ruled in favour of the Minister for Justice on the issue of refusing temporary release.
But he quashed the refusal of enhanced remission and ordered that decision be taken again.
He said of the nine main grounds considered when such applications were made, only two appeared to have been factored in when refusing Callely – his level of engagement with the prison services and nature and gravity of his offence.
The prison service’s new review and the decision arising from it may be available as early as next week, informed sources said. If the same decision to refuse enhanced remission is reached, the six-day period of Callely’s sentence still outstanding would be activated and he would be returned to prison.