High Court orders Ben Gilroy to return to prison

Activist had challenged detention over failure to complete community service order

The High Court has ruled that anti-eviction activist’s Ben Gilroy continued detention in prison over his failure to complete an 80-hour community service order is lawful. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

The High Court has ruled that anti-eviction activist’s Ben Gilroy continued detention in prison over his failure to complete an 80-hour community service order is lawful. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

Aodhan O’Faolain

The High Court has ruled that anti-eviction activist Ben Gilroy’s continued detention in prison over his failure to complete an 80-hour community service order is lawful.

Mr Gilroy had brought an inquiry under Article 40 of the Constitution claiming his detention at Dublin’s Mountjoy prison was unlawful and he should be released.

In a ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Max Barrett found against Mr Gilroy. The judge told Mr Gilroy he was “sorry” for “the predicament” he found himself in.

However, the judge said that the court was “coerced as a matter of law to conclude that Mr Gilroy’s detention at Mountjoy Prison” under the order challenged was “in accordance with the law”.

The judge then revoked Mr Gilroy’s bail, which was granted when the inquiry commenced earlier this month and ordered that the former election candidate be returned to Mountjoy Prison to serve the remainder of the three-month prison term. There was a crowd of about 40 supporters and friends of Mr Gilroy in Court 2 of the Four Courts when the decision was delivered. Several of those present voiced their disapproval at the ruling.

Flawed

In his action, Mr Gilroy, assisted by businessman Jerry Beades, claimed that the order upon which he was detained was flawed on several grounds.

These included that the order did not mention that Mr Gilroy was to be detained by the Governor of Mountjoy Prison, that the order had been wrongly endorsed by the garda that brought him to Mountjoy, and that the order named the wrong plaintiff.

The State, represented by Remy Farrell SC and Tony McGillicuddy BL, had opposed the application and rejected arguments that Mr Gilroy’s detention was unlawful or that the order was flawed.

In his judgement, the judge said none of the points raised could be deemed as issues that would render Mr Gilroy’s detention fatally flawed, invalid or unlawful.

Mr Gilroy was jailed last month by Mr Justice Brian McGovern for three months over a failure to comply with a court order to complete 80 hours community service after he had admitted criminal contempt.

Breach

Mr Justice McGovern found there was a “deliberate and conscious” breach by Mr Gilroy of the October 2017 community service order, arising from Mr Gilroy’s admission earlier that year of criminal contempt.

The contempt related to Mr Gilroy having, in a sworn statement in proceedings by Allied Irish Banks plc seeking to enforce a €3.2 million judgment against another man, accused the court of “criminal intimidation and threats” and compared the action of a court to that of “a thief putting a gun to his head and robbing him of his wallet”.

The court, after being informed that Mr Gilroy, of Riverview, Athlumney Abbey, Navan, Co Meath, had not performed the 80 hours community service, ordered that he be detained at Mountjoy Prison.