Ian Bailey to get access to garda station recordings

Wednesday 04 June 2014 23.05
Ian Bailey is taking an action for damages against the State
Ian Bailey is taking an action for damages against the State

The High Court has granted an application by Ian Bailey for an order allowing him to inspect recordings of phone calls at Bandon Garda Station as part of his legal action against the gardaí and the State.

The order was made by agreement between both sides.

However, the court has directed that the transcripts be inspected by a limited number of people after concerns were raised by a number of former gardaí about leaks to the media.

Mr Bailey wants to inspect the recordings and transcripts of them, as part of continuing preparations for his action for damages against the State.

The action arises from the conduct of the garda investigation into murder of French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in 1996.

A retired detective garda had asked the court to restrict the circulation of the records to named legal representatives  as he fears he will be subjected to "trial by media" if they are leaked.

In a sworn statement read to the court, retired Detective Garda Jim Fitzgerald said he and two others, retired Detective Garda Billy Byrne and Garda Mick Coughlan, had been advised there were strong legal grounds upon which they could resist the application for disclosure.

However, he said they did not intend to oppose the application as they believed it was in the interests of candour, openness and fairness that they be released to Mr Bailey and his legal team.

He said there were serious concerns surrounding the protection of their good names prior to the full hearing of the action and he was "hopeful that the trial of these proceedings we will be given a full opportunity to address all accusations made and to vindicate our good names".

He said confidential documents had "alarmingly and quite improperly appeared in the national press" giving rise to a significant fear that the transcripts may end up being reported upon before the trial of these proceedings.

"We do not wish to be put in a position where documents are given to the media subjectively and out of context."

He said he had been subjected to intense media scrutiny in recent times, which had caused him and his family considerable stress.

He said he should not be subjected to "trial by media" before that.

He said he had been openly referred to in the Dáil by Clare Daly, who he said gave "misleading information", which caused him "great distress and damage".

He said he had also been contacted at home by journalists on a number of occasions.

Another retired Detective Sgt, Liam Hogan, who was seconded to Cork from the serious crime squad in Dublin during the investigation in 1997 and 1998, objected to the transcripts being released for general inspection.

His barrister told the court the existence of the recordings came as "a complete shock to him".

In a sworn statement read to the court by barrister John Keating, he said he had never consented to the recordings and had never been informed about them.

He did not even think it was possible.

He had a number of concerns about the release of transcripts and believed it may be in breach of his right to privacy.

His lawyers said his constitutional rights and his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights may have been breached by the recording of the telephone conversations.

They said they were objecting to the transcripts being released.

If the court decided they should be released then it should impose all such restrictions and measures to ensure they are inspected solely for "the purposes of these proceedings".

Mr Justice John Hedigan again warned about prejudicial media coverage ahead of the full hearing of the case before a jury later this year.

He said he was not prepared to condemn anyone on either side about leaking documents to the media.

He accepted submissions from counsel for Mr Bailey, Martin Giblin, who explained that information had come into the public domain during a Supreme Court case and many other court proceedings.

The judge said "anyone given the right to inspect documents had a duty to ensure it was not leaked" to the media and he was confident that duty would be respected in this case.

Counsel for the State Paul O Higgins said the defendants were "particularly anxious" that the greatest care be taken with confidential documents which may also be considered by the Fennelly Commission which is inquiring into the recording of garda telephone recordings.