Keith Harrison seeks to quash Disclosures Tribunal findings

Garda, strongly criticised in report, claims judge, witness had prior professional links

Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms. File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins.

Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms. File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins.

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Garda Keith Harrison has launched a High Court challenge against the chairman of the Disclosures Tribunal aimed at quashing certain findings made in reports of the tribunal.

The Donegal-based Garda, who was strongly criticised by the tribunal, has sought a judicial review on grounds of alleged prior professional engagement between tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, and a witness, Chief Supt Terry McGinn.

The alleged prior engagement related to when Chief Supt McGinn was the Garda liaison officer from 2002 to 2005 to the Morris tribunal, which investigated allegations about gardaí in Donegal. Mr Justice Charleton was senior counsel for the tribunal.

Solicitors for Garda Harrison had, in light of that, written to the disclosures tribunal seeking to have the reports about their client set aside. The tribunal chairman refused, saying what was sought was “absurd and repugnant to the duty to the Oireachtas and the people of Ireland”.

He added that Supt McGinn’s role as liaison officer to the Morris tribunal was independent of that tribunal itself and her involvement with Morris was well known.

In his action, Garda Harrison wants orders quashing findings in the tribunal’s second and third interim reports in so far as it relates to him, prohibiting any further publication of matters relating to him in those reports and precluding Mr Justice Charleton dealing with any other matters relating to Garda Harrison in the tribunal.

He claims the chairman has acted in breach of his rights to natural and constitutional justice under the Constitution and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Exonerated

Mark Harty SC, for Garda Harrison, said the Disclosures Tribunal had rejected allegations made by Garda Harrison and his partner Marissa Simms and had exonerated others they made complaints about.

The couple’s claims included that Ms Simms was compelled by gardaí­ to make a statement against Garda Harrison which led to a Tusla referral. Mr Harty said Garda Harrison also alleged he was the victim of a five year intimidation campaign after arresting a fellow officer for drink driving in Athlone in 2009.

In an interim report, the tribunal chairman said all allegations of Garda Harrison and Ms Simms examined by the tribunal were “entirely without any validity.” The chairman also praised highly the conduct of Chief Supt McGinn and her management of the Donegal Division, counsel said.

Chief Supt McGinn was a key witness in relation to matters contained in protected disclosure made by Garda Harrison, he said.

Garda Harrison had recently become aware of newspaper reports showing a prior professional involvement, of which Garda Harrison had no knowledge, between the chairman and the Chief Superintendent.

Permission to bring the action was granted on an ex-parte basis (one side only represented) by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan. The judge was satisfied arguable grounds for judicial review had been raised. The matter will return to court in two weeks.

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