File photo - Pete Taylor Niall Carson via PA Images
High Court

Judgement reserved in injunction application over Pete Taylor's Bray boxing club

Taylor claims the council is wrongfully trying to evict him and the club from a facility.

WICKLOW COUNTY COUNCIL has told the High Court that boxing coach Pete Taylor is not entitled to an injunction preventing it from terminating his and Bray boxing club’s legal interest in the premises used by boxers in the town for several years.

Taylor, who is the father of Olympic and World Champion boxer Katie Taylor, claims the council is wrongfully trying to evict him and the club from a facility, owned by the local authority, located at the Harbour Shed, Bray, Co Wicklow.

Represented by Richard Kean SC, with Gareth Robinson Bl instructed by solicitor Georgina Robinson, Taylor and Bray Boxing Club Ltd, which Taylor is a director, seek an injunction restraining from terminating their legal interest in their possession of the premises in the absence of a properly obtained court order.

The applicants claimed Taylor and the local boxing club entered into an agreement to lease the club premises in 2007, and after the lease expired in 2014 remained on under a number of licence agreements.

The injunction, if granted, would remain in place pending the outcome of the dispute. Seeking the order, Kean said the court did not have to decide any propriety interests until the full hearing of the dispute.

However, his client fears that if the injunction sought is not granted the council may put another club in the premises rending the action moot or pointless.

The Council, represented by Esmond Keane SC and Carol O’Farrell Bl, opposes the application and say the applicants have no proprietary entitlement to the premises.

Even if the applicant’s case was to be taken at its highest point, Keane said all the applicants have is what is known as a ‘bare licence’ agreement.

It also claims that no rent has been paid on the premises, which the local authority spent over €195,000 to rebuild in 2013, for several years.

That type of licence just gives permission to a person to enter onto another entity’s property. Such a licence counsel said can be terminated at any time, without any reason being given.

Counsel also argued that the injunction sought is vague.

Following the conclusion of submissions from both parties Mr Justice Allen reserved his decision. The judge said he would give his decision as soon as possible.

The proceedings were brought after the council changed the locks on the premises in June 2018 after three people, including Taylor were shot at the gym. One of those shot, Bobby Messert was killed in the incident.

Taylor, the club and its members have been out of the facility since then.

Richard Kean said in 2005 Taylor secured the use of the premises, which had been used as a store shed by the local authority, for use as a boxing gym.

Over the years the club, which has produced some top and highly decorated boxers including Katie Taylor, has enhanced and equipped the facility with the help of a sports capital grant.

Counsel said in 2017 the council sought a large, unfair and “crippling” increase the annual rent it charged for the premises, to €15,000 per year which was an increase of €11,500.

In June 2018 a violent incident, in which Taylor was an innocent victim, occurred at the premises when a club member was shot and killed, another injured and he was shot in the arm.

Shortly after the shooting counsel said that without prior warning the council changed the locks at the premises and informed the club that it was taking possession of the premises so it could be cleaned, fixed and restored for use as a sports’ facility.

In a sworn statement Taylor said the council used that violent incident as a “smokescreen to unlawfully evict” him and the club from the premises.

It was always his intention to return and operate the club as previously and the council was not entitled to retake the property in the manner in which it has done for many years.

Last November Taylor said the council had posted an eviction notice outside the premises giving the club and Taylor 10 days to vacate the premises.

In reply the council accepts that it changed the locks, but says neither Taylor nor Bray Boxing Club Ltd have any proprietary interest in the club premises.

Counsel said while no rent has been paid for several years, no proceedings have been taken by the council over any arrears. Counsel said that the local authority had opted not to mediate the dispute.

The council denies allegations against it, and says it has acted lawfully.

Aodhan O Faolain