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Alan Shatter wins appeal to challenge Guerin report

The report focussed on Shatter’s handling of complaints made by Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE COURT OF Appeal says that Alan Shatter has won his appeal over a failed challenge to the Guerin report.

The report focussed on Shatter’s handling of complaints made by Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The case revolved around the report prepared for the government by barrister Sean Guerin into the allegations around policing in the Cavan/Monaghan area.

The three court judge today unanimously granted the former Justice Minister’s appeal after the High Court dismissed his challenge. In the written judgment, Mr Justice Sean Ryan said that Shatter was in jeopardy of losing his constitutional rights due to the conclusions barrister Sean Guerin had planned to put into his report.

He added that while Guerin was working under pressure, he had to adhere to the “rules of natural justice”.

Shatter had said that “findings of fact” had been made against him without proper procedure, something Mr Justice Ryan commented on.

“It is often forgotten that while fair procedures are required as a matter of protection of human rights, that is not their only purpose.

The fact that somebody is given a fair hearing or an opportunity to answer a case means that the outcome of the process of inquiry should be better because of the procedures that were adopted.

“It is not just that procedures are there to protect people; they are also there to improve the quality of the outcome of the investigative process. ”

He said that there may be an issue in obtaining “appropriate remedies” for Shatter, who resigned from his position under pressure from the report.

He agreed with the trial judge that Guerin was “working in dealing with such a large amount of documentary material under severe time constraint” and said the decision was not a criticism of him.

“It seems to me that he was in error, but in the overall context of what he had to do I am very far from being personally critical of him.”

Guerin denies any unfairness and argued the report was observational, not conclusive.

Welcomed

In a statement, Shatter welcomed the decision.

“The findings and conclusions of the Guerin Report were the cause of my being required, on 7 May, two days before the Report was published, to resign my position as Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence on being informed by the Taoiseach that he could no longer express confidence in me.

“Mr Guerin made his findings and conclusions which criticised my competence as Minister, and the manner in which I dealt with the complaints of Sgt Maurice McCabe, without ever speaking with me or giving me the opportunity to address his concerns.

“I believed that the report should be challenged in the public interest to ensure that, in the future, no one conducting a non-statutory inquiry is free to criticise individuals and damage their reputation and good name without affording them an opportunity to be heard. Today, important constitutional values, central to our constitutional democracy have been upheld and reaffirmed to the benefit of us all.

“It is my hope that today’s decision will bring this litigation, which should never have been necessary, to an end.”

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