Tribunal legal bills ‘exaggerated’, says Justice Alan Mahon

Redmond judgment will not add to €159m final cost of inquiry, says chairman

Justice Alan Mahon: accused witnesses of submitting ‘grossly exaggerated’ legal bills. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Justice Alan Mahon: accused witnesses of submitting ‘grossly exaggerated’ legal bills. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Planning tribunal chairman Mr Justice Alan Mahon has accused witnesses of submitting “grossly exaggerated” legal bills, but says the cost of the inquiry will be held at €159 million.

Former assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond’s recent High Court victory over the tribunal will have no impact on the final estimated costs involved, Mr Justice Mahon has insisted.

Although many third-party witnesses have submitted exaggerated legal bills, he says these are being reduced following negotiation and taxation in the High Court.

The Redmond judgment, delivered by the High Court shortly before Christmas, opens the way for other witnesses against whom adverse findings were made to challenge the tribunal and win their legal costs.

The inquiry has already written to a number of those affected.

Overall cost

The costs of third-party witnesses are projected to account for some €48.5 million of this.

In a rare public statement, Mr Justice Mahon says speculation that these estimates are incorrect following the Redmond decision is “incorrect”.

This is because the 2014 estimate was based on the assumption that all third parties, including Mr Redmond, received their full costs, following adjudication of these costs by the Taxing Master of the High Court.

“The tribunal’s estimates are based on actual costs paid, or likely to be paid, and not amounts claimed for costs,” the chairman says.

“It has been the experience of the tribunal that in very many cases third-party claims for costs have been grossly exaggerated and bear little relevance to the costs actually paid or likely to be paid following negotiation and /or the taxation process.”

Interim report

The document is being edited to reflect the court judgment through the removal of references to corruption, and a redacted version will be restored to the tribunal website “very shortly”, a spokesman says.

In the Redmond case the tribunal agreed to withdraw all adverse findings against the former assistant Dublin county manager and awarded him substantial costs.

Separate case

In the earlier case the court found Mr Gogarty had alleged “well-known persons in professional circles” paid sums of money to former minister Ray Burke and another politician but that there was “absolutely no reason” to believe the allegations had any truth.

The tribunal ran from 1997 to 2012 and still employs a small number of staff, who work on outstanding legal challenges and the payment of third-party legal bills.