FORMER assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond cannot sue the planning tribunal over corruption findings it made against him, the High Court ruled yesterday.
However, he can challenge the refusal of the Flood (now Mahon) Tribunal to cover his legal costs of being represented at the tribunal, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said.
The judge ruled a six-year delay by Mr Redmond in pursuing his civil action against the tribunal was inordinate and inexcusable. Last January, the tribunal asked the High Court to dismiss his case over the delay.
Mr Redmond had claimed the delay was excusable because of the concealment by the tribunal of documents which would have enabled him to test the credibility of its main witness, the late James Gogarty.
The tribunal found in its 2004 third interim report that Mr Redmond, now 88, had received a corrupt payment in relation to planning matters and had also obstructed its work.
Separately, Mr Redmond was convicted of corruption in 2003 and sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment following a majority jury verdict -- though this was later overturned on appeal as unsafe and he was released after six months.
In 2005, Mr Redmond initiated a High Court action seeking to quash the tribunal findings against him.
He claimed his constitutional rights had been breached, sought damages, and also challenged a costs order made against him by the tribunal.
He argued the delay was excusable because he was awaiting the outcome of a Supreme Court decision in relation to an action by another tribunal party, Joseph Murphy Structural Engineering (JMSE). That ruling, on April 21, 2010, had a bearing on his civil case because it was critical of the tribunal's failure to provide documentation in advance to JMSE witnesses at the tribunal, he said.
In its application last January to dismiss his civil case, the tribunal argued it was prejudiced by a delay of more than six years in him (Redmond) getting on with his case.
It also argued the case was brought outside time limits prescribed by court rules. He (Redmond) had simply "parked his proceedings" in anticipation of the JMSE Supreme Court decision, which he was not entitled to do.
The tribunal also contended the delay created prejudice to it and a balancing exercise had to be carried out by the court in assessing such prejudice.
It also had to be borne in mind that Mr Justice Feargus Flood, chairman of the tribunal, had long since retired and if Mr Redmond's action was allowed to proceed, there were serious reputational implications involved, the tribunal also argued.
Mr Redmond rejected these claims and argued there had been oppressive and unfair behaviour by the tribunal. It was in the public interest that he should not be allowed to suffer a wrong, which the State had conceded in the Supreme Court was a wrong, by the holding back of documents.
This material, described by the Supreme Court as "explosive", contained serious allegations which would have been a "goldmine for cross-examination" of Mr Gogarty, it was argued.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Gilligan said why parts of Mr Gogarty's evidence to the tribunal were blacked out, suppressed and only divulged to Mr Redmond a short time before the JMSE Supreme Court case was clearly a situation of serious concern.
However, the reality is that it is almost 12 years since the conclusion of public hearings involving Mr Gogarty and eight years since the publication of the report in which findings were made against Mr Redmond, the judge said.
Having done "effectively nothing over a period in excess of six years" and having only recently prepared a statement of claim, the lapse of time in Mr Redmond bringing his case was "simply too great", the judge said.
In the judge's view, the delay involved gave rise to a substantial risk that it was not now possible to have a fair trial within a reasonable time to challenge the substantive findings (of corruption).
However, the judge also said, he was refusing the tribunal's application to dismiss Mr Redmond's claim in relation to legal costs. The tribunal did not satisfy him that to allow this aspect of Mr Redmond's claim to proceed would be unfair to it and the balance of justice favoured allowing the costs issue to proceed.
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