Wed, 24 Nov, 2021 – 15:33 Ann O’Loughlin
A High Court judge has granted a garda permission to bring proceedings alleging contempt of court against the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan said he was satisfied to allow lawyers acting for Detective Garda Aidan Bracken, who is currently on sick leave and unable to work since 2015, bring a motion against the commissioner over an alleged failure to comply with an order of the court made last August.
The order, which was made following the resolution of an action brought by Det Gda Bracken, requires the Garda Commissioner to conduct a fair assessment of injuries the garda claims he suffered when performing his duties.
The assessment is to be carried out by that garda’s chief medical officer, the order further stipulates.
Lawyers for the commissioner opposed the application, arguing there had been some progress in the matter, and that the bringing of contempt of court proceedings were “premature”.
The detective, whose lawyers say the assessment has not been completed, claims he suffered psychiatric injuries while performing his duties as a garda when investigating criminal gangs.
The garda, who worked in the Co Kildare division, claims his work resulted in several gang members being convicted and jailed.
However, serious and credible threats were made to his life by criminals.
This severely affected his mental health, and he was diagnosed as suffering from conditions including PTSD.
At the High Court on Wednesday, John Kennedy SC, with Rory Kennedy Bl instructed by solicitor Eoin Powderly for Det Gda Bracken, said while the matter had been before the court on two occasions since August, the medical assessment has not been completed.
As a result of the failure to complete the assessment, his client has brought a motion alleging the commissioner is in contempt of court, counsel said.
Counsel said his client was not seeking to have any punitive measures imposed on the commissioner, adding the motion was “several steps away” from seeking to have the commissioner attached and committed to prison for an alleged contempt.
The motion was just the “first step” in this process, counsel said.
Counsel added that court orders “apply to everyone”.
Counsel said all his client wants is compliance with the order, and if the assessment is completed before the motion returns before the court, then that would be the end of that issue, counsel said.
The matter has been going on for some time, Mr Kennedy said.
Arising out of the circumstances of his injuries, counsel said his client, who is in a vulnerable situation, has had to take four judicial review actions in recent years against the commissioner.
Det Gda Bracken won all four cases, counsel added.
In reply, Aillil O’Reilly SC, for the commissioner, contended the contempt motion was premature, and the matter was being taken “most seriously” by the commissioner.
Counsel told the court that this was not a case where no progress had been made, and there was some disagreement between the parties in this regard.
Counsel said the commissioner was currently awaiting a report from a forensic psychiatrist regarding Det Gda Bracken’s injuries, which is required before the assessment can be completed.
No time limit for the assessment to be completed was included in the order, counsel added.
Given the circumstances, the application for permission to bring a motion alleging contempt against the commissioner should not be granted, counsel submitted.
Mr Justice Meenan said he was prepared to grant leave to Det Gda Bracken to bring the contempt motion against the commissioner.
The judge noted this and related matters had been before the courts on several previous occasions over the past number of years and Det Gda Bracken had been “successful at every turn” in all the judicial review actions brought against the commissioner.
The judge adjourned the matter for two weeks.
Last August, Detective Bracken, who had over 20 years in the Garda, resolved a challenge he brought against the commissioner’s decision that the detective was not injured on duty and classified him as having an ordinary illness.
He claimed the decision, which had a serious adverse effect on his entitlement to sick pay and benefits, was flawed and should be set aside.
The parties, following out of court talks, agreed the court could make various orders, including one quashing the decision to classify his injuries as an ordinary illness.
It also ordered that the detective undergo a fresh assessment by the chief medical officer, and that he be paid a temporary rehabilitation remuneration, until matters have been finally determined.