Shatter -v- Guerin, [2015] IEHC 301 (2015)

Docket Number:2014 478 JR
Party Name:Shatter, Guerin
 
FREE EXCERPT

THE HIGH COURT[2014 No. 478 JR]BETWEENALAN SHATTERAPPLICANTAND

SEAN GUERINRESPONDENTJUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Noonan delivered the 20th day of May, 2015.

Introduction

  1. The applicant is the former Minister for Justice and Equality. He resigned that office on the 7th May, 2014. On the 6th May, 2014, the respondent furnished a report to An Taoiseach on a review of the action taken by An Garda Síochána pertaining to certain allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe (“the Report”). The applicant alleges that the Report contains what are described as “conclusions” and “findings” which are critical of him in his ministerial capacity and which have caused significant damage to his political, professional and personal reputation.

  2. The applicant claims that these conclusions and findings were arrived at by the respondent without according fair procedures to the applicant. In these judicial review proceedings, the applicant claims the following reliefs:

  3. An order of certiorari quashing the relevant conclusions.

  4. An order of mandamus directing the respondent to delete those conclusions from the report.

  5. A declaration that the respondent reached those conclusions in breach of fair procedures, constitutional and natural justice.

  6. A declaration that the drawing of the conclusions by the respondent was ultra vires the powers conferred on him under the relevant terms of reference.

    Background Facts

  7. Sergeant McCabe became a member of An Garda Síochána in August, 1985, attaining the rank of sergeant in January, 2000. Between October, 2004 and March, 2008, Sergeant McCabe was the sergeant-in-charge at Bailieboro Garda station. Towards the end of that period, Sergeant McCabe became concerned in relation to a range of issues including the manner in which certain incidents were investigated and dealt with by colleagues in the force.

  8. These concerns ultimately became the subject of complaint by Sergeant McCabe to a number of different parties including his superiors in An Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice and Equality (“the Department”), the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (“GSOC”) and the Garda Síochána Confidential Recipient (“the Confidential Recipient”).

  9. Sergeant McCabe’s interaction with the Department appears to have commenced on the 23rd March, 2009, when he sent an email to the applicant’s predecessor, the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (“the Minister”). In that email, Sergeant McCabe made a complaint about the conduct of an internal Garda investigation in relation to malpractice and corruption in Bailieboro Garda District and about comments made by a senior Garda officer in the press in relation to that investigation. Sergeant McCabe asked the Minister to provide an independent party to oversee the investigation. There was intermittent contact between the Department and Sergeant McCabe and his solicitors over the next few years. On the 4th September, 2012, Sergeant McCabe’s solicitors wrote to the Minister raising a number of issues and enclosing three volumes of documents setting out details of Sergeant McCabe’s complaints. The first of those volumes contained details of ten different incidents which Sergeant McCabe felt were of a serious nature and matters of public concern.

  10. On the 19th February, 2014, this volume was furnished to An Taoiseach by Mr Micheál Martin TD. On the 21st February, 2014, a further document was furnished to An Taoiseach which is described as part of a letter understood to be from Sergeant McCabe to the Confidential Recipient dated the 23rd January, 2012.

  11. On the 25th February, 2014, An Taoiseach made a statement in the Dáil in relation to the matter. He referred to the material given to him by Mr Martin which contained very serious allegations against members of the Gardaí, many of which had been published in the media. An Taoiseach said:

    “I am, however, acutely conscious that the scale of the public discussion around these matters could have implications for confidence in the administration of justice in our country. There is a need to address these concerns and put in place a process that can do so quickly and effectively. For that reason, the Government has asked an independent and objective legal expert, Mr Sean Guerin SC, to examine and access all the relevant papers and recommend what further action might be taken. If he recommends that a Commission of Investigation should be established, it will be done. The terms of reference for this work are currently being finalised. The report, which we hope will be completed before the Easter recess, will be laid before the Oireachtas by me and published. I believe this is a prudent way to proceed in view of all the comments, allegations and documents that surround these matters.”

  12. On the next day, the 26th February, 2014, the applicant made a statement in the Dáil and answered questions from Deputies, to which I shall refer further.

    The Terms of Reference

  13. On the 27th February, 2014, the following appeared on the website of the Department of An Taoiseach, www.taoiseach.gov.ie:

    “27 February 2014

    Government announces terms of reference for Guerin inquiry

    The Government has appointed Mr Sean Guerin SC to conduct the independent inquiry into allegations made by Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe and related matters. The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry were agreed by the Government today, on the advice of the Attorney General.

    They are as follows.

    Terms of Reference

  14. To conduct an independent review and undertake a thorough examination of the action taken by An Garda Síochána pertaining to certain allegations of grave deficiencies in the investigation and prosecution of crimes, in the County of Cavan and elsewhere, made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe as specified in:

    a) The dossier compiled by Sgt Maurice McCabe and furnished to An Taoiseach on the 19th February 2014 and

    b) The letter understood to be from Sgt Maurice McCabe to the Confidential Recipient, Mr. Oliver Connolly, dated 23rd January 2012, part of which was furnished to An Taoiseach on the 21st day of February 2014.

  15. To interview Sgt Maurice McCabe and any other such person as may be considered necessary and capable of providing relevant and material assistance to this Review in relation to the aforesaid allegations and to receive and consider any relevant documentation that may be provided by Sergeant McCabe or such other person.

  16. To examine all documentation and data held by An Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice and Equality, and any other entity or public body as is deemed relevant to the allegations set out in the documents at 1(a) and (b) above.

  17. To communicate with An Garda Síochána and any other relevant entity or public body in relation to any relevant documentation and information and to examine what steps, if any, have been taken by them, to investigate and resolve the allegations and complaints contained in the documentation referenced at 1(a) and (b) above.

  18. To review the adequacy of any investigation or inquiry instigated by An Garda Síochána or any other relevant entity or public body into the incidents and events arising from the papers furnished at 1(a), 1(b) and 2 above.

  19. To consider if, taking into account relevant criminal, civil and disciplinary aspects, there is a sufficient basis for concern as to whether all appropriate steps were taken by An Garda Síochána or any other relevant entity or public body to investigate and address the specified complaints.

  20. To advise, arising from this review, what further measures, if any, are warranted in order to address public concerns including whether it is considered desirable in the public interest for the Government to establish a Commission of Investigation pursuant to the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 and, if so, the matters to be investigated .

  21. At the conclusion of the aforesaid review, within eight weeks of 27th February, 2014 or so soon as may be thereafter, to deliver a Report to An Taoiseach on the matters set out at 1, 5, 6, and 7 above.”

    Subsequent Events

  22. By letter of the 5th March, 2014, the respondent wrote to the applicant in the following terms:

    “Re: Review of action taken by An Garda Síochána relating to certain allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe

    Dear Minister,

    As you know, I have been appointed by the Government to review and examine certain matters and report to An Taoiseach thereon. I enclose herewith a copy of my terms of reference.

    I understand that the Secretary General to the Government, Mr Martin Fraser, has written to you to request you to nominate a single point of contact with whom I might liaise in relation to these matters. I would be most obliged if you could furnish these contact details to me at your earliest convenience.

    I would also be obliged to receive copies of whatever documents you may have in relation to these matters. It would be my preference to receive documents in both electronic format (on disc) and on paper. If, however, such documents, or any of them, are not at present available in electronic format, it would assist me greatly to receive such documents in whatever form they may be available as soon as possible. By “documents” I mean, of course, not just paper documents but any form of document, including computer records or records maintained in any electronic or mechanical storage system, notes, photographs, videos, etc. I enclose a list of the matters coming within my terms of reference to which this request for documents relates.

    Perhaps the individual you nominate as a point of contact would contact me directly to make arrangements for the transfer of these documents.

    Thank you for your assistance.”

  23. This letter was replied to on the 12th March, 2014 by Mr Kevin Clarke, a principal officer in the Garda Division of the Department. Mr Clarke enclosed with that letter a copy of relevant documentation together with a schedule of same. On the 4th and 9th of April, 2014, Mr Clarke forwarded...

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