A solicitor and his firm have launched High Court proceedings aimed at quashing a search warrant which resulted in the search and seizure of confidential documents from their Dublin offices last month.
The action has been brought by solicitor James Flynn, who had formerly served as a taxing master, an independent officer of the court appointed by the Government to provide an independent and impartial process of assessment of legal costs, and his company JT Flynn and Co Solicitors.
The search, where items including files and Mr Flynn’s mobile phone were seized, relates to a Garda investigation into alleged money laundering.
Mr Flynn was also arrested and held for questioning by the Garda for two days.
The applicants claim the warrant is unlawful and have brought judicial review proceedings aimed at bringing about the end of what the solicitor and his firm claims is a “spurious investigation” and the return of the items seized. They also seek copies of the information relied on by gardaí when they obtained the warrant.
The claims that information was not given to the judge who issued the warrant, which would have undermined the basis for allowing the search take place.
Other less intrusive methods to allow the Garda to examine the files, should have but were not utilised and there was no basis to arrest Mr Flynn, it is alleged.
It is claimed that the search is linked to proceedings the company has brought against the over its refusal to exchange damaged bank notes to the value of €4,400, on the grounds they had been intentionally damaged.
The banknotes, it is claimed, were furnished to the company as a fee payment by a long-standing client of the firm and were submitted to the bank in 2019.
The refusal resulted in the company taking High Court proceedings against the bank.
The bank referred the matter to the Garda, who began in investigation into the source of the funds. The referral was under Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011, which makes it a criminal offence to withhold information of material assistance in preventing an offence or securing the apprehension, prosecution, or conviction of any other person for a relevant offence.
In seeking the warrant, gardaí had claimed that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting evidence of a money laundering offence were to be found at Mr Flynn’s offices, the court was told.
It is claimed that the warrant issued was broad enough to include every single file in Mr Flynn’s office and shatters the confidential lawyer-client privilege in every respect.
Mr Flynn was arrested and detained despite his previous engagement with the Garda on this issue and his willingness to provide information, but with the caveat that he has an overriding duty of confidentiality to his clients, it is claimed.
In the action, the applicants claim that the search conducted by members of An Garda Síochána’s National Economic Crime Bureau at the firm’s offices at Anglesea Street, Dublin 2 was unlawful, and in breach of their property rights, and right to information. It is also claimed that the warrant, issued by a judge of the District Court, breaches the applicants’ privacy rights or have regard for their lawyer/client relationships.
In his judicial review action against the Garda Commissioner, the DPP, Ireland and the Attorney General, the applicants seek various orders including one quashing the warrant.
Represented by Kevin Winters of KRW Law, the applicants also seek orders compelling the Garda to provide the applicants with information it used to obtain the warrant.
The applicants further seeking an order directing the DPP and State respondents to decide whether there has been any criminal offence committed in respect of the bank notes.
The Law Society, the Central Bank of Ireland and the European Central Bank are notice parties to the proceedings.
The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday, who adjourned the case to a date later this month.
Counsel for Mr Flynn sought an urgent hearing of the leave application. However, the judge noting that the raid had taken place over a month ago did not accept the matter was sufficiently urgent to be heard on Monday and adjourned the hearing to a date after Easter.