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Garda Keith Harrison launches High Court battle to quash findings from Disclosures Tribunal

Harrison alleges that Mr Justice Peter Charleton had prior professional involvement with a key witness in his case.

Harrison entering Dublin Castle during the Tribunal's hearings last year
Harrison entering Dublin Castle during the Tribunal's hearings last year
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

GARDA KEITH HARRISON has launched a High Court challenge seeking to quash findings made against him in reports from the disclosures Tribunal.

The Donegal-based Garda who was strongly criticised in the tribunal’s interim reports has brought the action on the grounds of an alleged prior professional involvement between the tribunal chair Mr Justice Peter Charleton and a witness before the tribunal Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn.

The alleged prior engagement related to when Chief Superintendent was the Garda liaison to the Morris Tribunal, which considered allegations about Gardai in Donegal, in 2002-05 when Mr Justice Charleton was that tribunal’s Senior Counsel.

Solicitors for Garda Harrison says in light of the alleged prior involvement wrote to the tribunal seeking to have the reports about their client set aside.

The Tribunal said in a reply that the steps sought on Garda Harrison’s behalf “were absurd and repugnant to the duty to the Oireachtas and the people of Ireland”.

Action

In his action, Garda Harrison seeks an order from the High Court quashing findings made the Tribunal’s second interim report and the findings of the third interim report in so far as it relates to Garda Harrison.

He also seeks orders prohibiting the further publication of the second interim report and the parts of the third interim report that relates to him, and that the Judge is precluded from dealing with any other matters relating to Garda Harrison and the tribunal.

He further seeks a declaration that the judge has acted in breach of the Garda’s rights to natural and constitutional justice and under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, at today’s sitting of the High Court.

The judge said he was satisfied that arguable grounds had been raised to allow Garda Harrison bring the action had been raised.

The case will return before the courts in two weeks time.

Seeking permission to bring the action against Mr Justice Charleton, Mark Harty SC for Garda Harrison said the Disclosures Tribunal rejected allegations made by Garda Harrison and his partner Marissa Simms and had exonerated others they made complaints about.

The couple’s claimed included that Simms was compelled by gardaí to make a statement against him which led to a Tusla referral.

Garda Harrison also alleged he was the victim of a five-year intimidation campaign after arresting a fellow officer for drink driving in Athlone in 2009.

‘Entirely without validity’

In an interim report, Mr Justice Charleton said all of Garda Harrison and Marisa Simm’s allegations examined by the tribunal were “entirely without any validity.”

Mr Justice Charleton also praised highly the conduct of the chief superintendent and her management of the Donegal Division, counsel said.

This was in contrast to its comments on Harrison who was criticised, counsel said. Chief Superintendent McGinn was the officer in charge of the Donegal division and was a key witness in relation to matters contained in protected disclosure made by Garda Harrison.

Counsel said that Garda Harrison had recently become aware of newspaper reports which show a prior involvement which he had no knowledge to the extent of the alleged prior involvement between the Judge and the Chief Superintendent.

Counsel said articles published by the Irish Times in 2006 quoted criticism of a reconstruction from the Morris tribunal broadcast on RTE.

The broadcast had created a deeply unpleasant impression of Chief Superintendent McGinn, counsel said.

The articles quoted the judge, then an SC, as saying all those who had worked with her had great respect for the assistance she had given the Morris tribunal and it was unfair to her that listeners might think she just was not interested in the truth.

It is claimed that the articles and transcripts of the Morris tribunal disclose that Judge Charleton did know the Chief Superintendent and had worked with her and was in contact with her.

Counsel said Harrison’s solicitor wrote to tribunal asking the chairman to withdraw the reports concerning his client.

The tribunal in a reply rejected that request.

The letter added said the Superintendent’s role as liaison was independent of the Morris tribunal, her involvement with Morris was well-known.

The letter said Mr Justice Charleton had no recollection of the comments he had made to the tribunal about the broadcast.

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About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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