Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has won his challenge to a finding that his disclosure of information about Independent TD Mick Wallace on a live TV programme was a breach of his duties under the Data Protection Act.
Mr Shatter denied his reference during an RTÉ Prime Time interview in May 2013 to Mr Wallace being cautioned by gardaí over allegedly using a mobile phone while driving amounted to a use and disclosure of Mr Wallace's personal data.
The Data Protection Commissioner ruled this disclosure breached Mr Shatter's duties under the Data Protection Act.
The Circuit Civil Court upheld this decision and dismissed Mr Shatter's appeal. However, the High Court has now found in favour of Mr Shatter.
Mr Wallace complained to the Data Protection Commissioner after the Prime Time interview.
He has taken separate civil proceedings against the Minster for Justice, and against Mr Shatter personally, over the matter that have yet to be heard.
Mr Shatter claimed the then Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes failed to set out the basis for his conclusion the information was personal data, and had prejudged that issue and acted in breach of fair procedures.
Mr Shatter's lawyers said he never had, or saw, any written record of the information communicated to him during a conversation with then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
He said the information was "in his mind" only and what he said did not amount to "processing" it.
The Data Protection Commissioner maintained Mr Shatter "processed" data of Mr Wallace's within the meaning of the legislation.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan ruled that the Circuit Civil Court was wrong to have found that Mr Shatter did not have the legal standing to appeal the matter.
He also found that the Data Protection Commissioner had prejudged the issue, although he found that Mr Shatter could not rely on this ground of appeal because he had not asked the Commissioner to recuse himself from investigating Mr Wallace's complaint.
Mr Justice Meenan found that Mr Shatter was not the controller of the data because the information was contained in an internal garda email.
This email was not shown to Mr Shatter and the judge found this was a fundamental flaw in the procedures followed by the Data Protection Commissioner.
He also found that the email could not be defined as "automated data" or "manual data" as required under the legislation.
Mr Wallace said the High Court judge criticised the process used to investigate the complaint but did not enter into the merits of what the former minister did.
Mr Wallace is taking a civil action against the Minister for Justice and Mr Shatter personally over the issue.
He claims Mr Shatter used a Garda Commissioner to smear him for political purposes and abused his public office.
He claimed today's judgment would have little bearing on that action.
Alan Shatter said he welcomed the judgment and the fact that the High Court confirmed that he did not as Minister for Justice in any comment he made breach the Data Protection Act in any way.
He also welcomed the finding that the Data Protection Commissioner had pre-judged the issue and that he had been denied fair procedures in the way the Commissioner dealt with the complaint.