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Dublin man sues Garda commissioner for defamation

The alleged breach was the subject of several media reports published in late March.

Image: RollingNews.ie

A DUBLIN MAN has brought defamation proceedings against the Garda Commissioner after an image containing his name and photograph on a Garda notice board were circulated on social media.

The action has been brought by John Matthew Berry who the court heard is not a criminal and has no previous convictions.

He claims that in March 2019 a person, believed to be a contractor employed by the Gardaí was permitted access to a room in Kilmainham Garda Station, which contained briefing bulletins.

It is claimed that one bulletin displayed Mr Berry’s details, including his photograph, name and address.

It is claimed that the Garda briefing bulletin described Mr Berry as an active criminal from Ballyfermot/Labre Park.

He claims that such a statement is highly defamatory as he is not a criminal, and has damaged his good name and reputation.

It is claimed that the contractor took a picture of the bulletin boards and it would appear circulated the photographs on a Whatsapp and online.

Mr Berry claims that the republishing of the photograph by the person who took it and by others who disseminated the material amount to a breach of his privacy and is defamatory.

The alleged breach was the subject of several media reports published in late March.

As a result of the publication, Mr Berry seeks damages for defamation and a breach of his privacy against the Garda Commissioner.

He further seeks damages for what he claims is an alleged breach of duty under the Data Protection Acts, and the Garda Siochana Act 2005, which prohibits the harmful disclosure of sensitive personal information by the Commissioner, or his agents.

Mr Berry, who is from Labre Park in Ballyfermot is also seeking to bring a damages action against the person who allegedly took and disseminated the picture.

That issue came before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds today. 

The Judge made an order requiring the commissioner to provide any information that may assist in identifying the person who photographed the bulletin board containing Mr Berry’s name and image, and who caused that photograph to be disseminated.

Mark Lynam Bl for Mr Berry said that his client wishes to take proceedings against the person who took the photograph, whose identity remains unknown to Mr Berry and his lawyers.

Counsel said the only way the identity of the person who took the allegedly defamatory photographs could be ascertained by his client was if the court granted what is known as a ‘Norwich Pharmacal’ order against the Garda Commissioner.

The Commissioner, represented by Conor Power SC, said his side were not objecting to the order sought by Mr Berry’s lawyers being granted.

The cases will return before the High Court later this year.

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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