Whistleblower inquiry: Peter Charleton known for independence
Supreme Court judge will chair inquiry into Garda whistleblowers controversy
Peter Charleton: Mr Charleton (60) has a track record of public service. Photograph: Eric Luke
Peter Charleton, the Supreme Court judge who is to chair the inquiry into the Garda whistleblowers controversy, is known as an independent intellectual.
The experienced criminal lawyer also has a reputation for being, as one lawyer put it, “slightly off-beat”, and his wide range of interests outside the law may make his eventual report all the more interesting.
Deceit will be a key theme for the tribunal, which will investigate allegations of an alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe which included the misuse of files from Tusla, the child and family agency.
In a 2006 book called Lies in a Mirror: An Essay on Evil and Deceit, Charleton reflected on the criminals he had worked with and explored the idea that lying acts as a gateway for the evil that lurks in all of us.
Whether it be the public image projected by the secret paedophile, the self-aggrandisement of the gangster boss, or the ideology held by the republican or loyalist killer, “there is a lie behind every crime”, he wrote.
Deceit was the “doorway” for our propensity for evil. This was the case not just for the self-deceiving individual blaming his victim, but could also be true of the greatest crimes of history.
Charleton reflected on the criminals he had worked with and explored the idea that lying acts as a gateway for the evil that lurks in all of us
He also wrote that, whatever country you were in, you would be “completely naive” if you believed “that the police are never tempted into falsifying evidence”.
Charleton (60) has a track record of public service, having served as the (unpaid) chairman of the National Archives Advisory Council from 2011 to 2016, a role that involved 8am meetings and a drive to get increased State support for a neglected public service.
“He helped steady a ship that was struggling. I was impressed,” said one board member. “He’s quite the intellectual, and quirky in his interests.”
During his time as a barrister Charleton was involved in a number of complex trials involving serious offences, including the prosecution of John Gilligan in the Special Criminal Court, where he was found guilty of importing drugs but not of killing journalist Veronica Guerin.
He was counsel for the Morris tribunal (2002-2008) which investigated Garda corruption in Donegal. This experience, and his work on case management in the Commercial Court, should help him exert control on the tribunal. It is suspected the modular aspect of the tribunal’s terms of reference is the result of his desire not to get involved in something that goes on for years.
Appointed to the High Court in 2006, and the Supreme Court in 2014, he is married with children and lives in Dublin. The author of books on criminal law, he was a member of the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, and of the board of the Irish Baroque Orchestra.