High Court rules gardaí to get phone transcripts before Ian Bailey

Monday 26 May 2014 13.17
Ian Bailey is taking a case against the State for wrongful arrest
Ian Bailey is taking a case against the State for wrongful arrest

Four gardaí are to receive transcripts of taped conversations at Bandon Garda Station before Ian Bailey who is suing the State for damages following a High Court ruling today.

Mr Bailey wants to inspect the recordings and transcripts of them, as part of continuing preparations for his action for damages against the State arising from the conduct of the Garda investigation into murder of French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in 1996.

He will now have to wait until the High Court decides on his application to inspect the transcripts in nine days time.

Mr Justice John Hedigan today ruled that the four gardaí who were represented in court – retired Detective Garda Jim Fitzgerald,  Garda Michael Coughlan, Garda William Byrne and Superintendent Liam Hogan who were all attached to the West Cork garda division – are to be allowed inspect the part of the transcripts which relates to them.

The judge said it was unusual but it seemed to follow a logic as the rights of privacy of those mentioned in the transcripts would be protected.

A lever-arch file containing the transcripts was also handed in to the court by the State.

The judge was told the State had notified a number of people whose conversations had turned up in the transcripts including gardaí and various journalists.

Luan O'Braonain SC for the State said notification was difficult in relation to the journalists as some had identified themselves by their first name only, but the State had written to the organisations involved.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the State could only do its best and the people had to be notified out of respect for their right to privacy.

Retired Detective Garda Jim Fitzgerald was among ten of people who had written to the State asking that, if the discovered communications related to them in any way, they should be given prior notice of that before any permission is given to Mr Bailey to inspect them.

The judge was told Mr Fitzgerald, along with three other gardaí, was represented in court.

Mr Bailey’s counsel Martin Giblin SC said he was "becoming increasingly alarmed" at the proceedings and he was afraid his side would become "mired" in paper work with the hazard for Mr Bailey of incurring extra legal costs.

Mr Justice Hedigan said he had to take into account and respect the privacy of those whose conversations may be overheard and examined.

The judge said he had the constitutional rights of citizens to protect.

The judge added he was very conscious of Mr Bailey's right to bring proceedings against the State,  but where a conflicting right arises he had to balance that and take it into account.

The judge also indicated the case will go before a jury in the autumn.