We Pause Now For The Angela



Former Rehab boss Angela Kerins

Further to yesterday’s post on the award of 75% of costs to losing party Angela Kerins in her case against the Public Accounts Committee, Broadsheet commenter Harry Molloy asked me to come back to readers when the full written judgment had been published. It is now available here.

The justification for the award of costs is set out by the Court at paragraphs 26-33 and appears to be as follows:-

(i) The PAC has an important function. Questions concerning the proper discharge of its function and the conduct of its members and the legal safeguards (if any) available to witness who appear before it are matters of public importance, involving questions of freedom of speech in Parliament, the separation of powers and the extent to which the court may intervene in the affairs of the Legislature.

(ii) Ms Kerins attended before the PAC in a voluntary capacity and much of what was put to her and said about her was damaging to her reputation personally and professionally. By bringing her action, Ms Kerins cast a light on the position of persons who volunteer to appear before the PAC. The institution of proceedings on her part was a proportionate reaction on her part to what had occurred and as such and the fact that she had a personal interest in the outcome of the application should not preclude her obtaining her costs.

The implication from the ruling was that Ms Kerins had not been well treated by the PAC and therefore it was justifiable for her to seek to clarify the law in relation to the position of witnesses appearing before it.

There is also an implication that she performed a public service in alerting potential witnesses to the risks of appearing before the PAC.

Although within the (very wide) parameters of the discretion laid down by previous case law, the ruling does break new ground in that it sanctions an award of costs to an unsuccessful litigant with a personal interest in proceedings on a matter of public interest where that litigant acted proportionately in bringing the proceedings.

It will be interesting to see what implications this ruling will have for Denis O’Brien’s costs in his recent unsuccessful application for parliamentary privilege. Will the richest man in Ireland be entitled to his costs on a losing case on the basis that he acted ‘proportionately’?

And, more pressingly, what does proportionately even mean?

*stirs coffee*

Yesterday: Compo Claim Madness


30 thoughts on “We Pause Now For The Angela

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      I feel your pain, scundered. There was NO matter of ‘exceptional importance ‘ to be decided here. This just opens a floodgate for frivolous litigation (for the rich only). Others will just have to pay the costs of unsuccessful litigation out of wages or SW benefits.

      1. Lord Snowflakee

        No it does not.

        We can’t have every half wit and social justice type abusing Dáil privilege to impugn private citizens without right of reply and due process irrespective of how much we might dislike said characters

  1. Harry Molloy

    Very interesting and many thanks for that LCD, I’ll get you a drink at the next broadsheet bash

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Is everybody other than me a Broadsheet insider? It would be useful to know Harry.

          1. Brother Barnabas

            It was a rookie error to announce yourself as being “up for anything”, Harry. I think Clampers and Rob_G, in particular, took advantage.

          1. mildred st. meadowlark

            Yeah… Should’ve known he’d show up. Still I’d say sh;t got weird after that

          2. mildred st. meadowlark

            That doesn’t surprise me, oddly enough.

            He’s rather a philosophical chap, I think.

  2. Daz

    … and here’s me thinking the law prevents one from benefiting from one’s own bad behaviour :(

        1. Kieran Nice Young Chap

          How is still paying for a legal bill a benefit of her “bad” behavior (I.e. this frivolous lawsuit).

          She’s paying for something she wouldn’t have to if she didn’t bring the lawsuit. She’s not profiting out of it.

          1. Daz

            She utilised all of the rights of a citizen, lost, and then got a 75% deduction on her outstanding costs. A monetary amount that must be now borne by the winning side. How is that not a benefit to her? She got a court case for 25% of what any other person would have paid.

          2. Fact Checker

            Because there was a pretty important issue of public interest here regarding the limits of how parliamentarians can and cannot address witnesses who appear before them.

            I urge anyone with doubts about this to read the transcript (I have). The link is below.

            The Courts have now decided that parliamentarians pretty much have unlimited right to say what they please inside the house.

            Interestingly when the public was asked in 2011 if it wanted to give powers to make findings of fact to parliamentary committees it said ‘NO’ quite firmly.

          3. Fact Checker

            This is what the (rejected) amendment would have said:

            2° Each House shall have the power to conduct an inquiry, or an inquiry with the other House, in a manner provided for by law, into any matter stated by the House or Houses concerned to be of general public importance.
            3° In the course of any such inquiry the conduct of any person (whether or not a member of either House) may be investigated and the House or Houses concerned may make findings in respect of the conduct of that person concerning the matter to which the inquiry relates.
            4° It shall be for the House or Houses concerned to determine, with due regard to the principles of fair procedures, the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest for the purposes of ensuring an effective inquiry into any matter to which subsection 2° applies.

            4 is the interesting part. Basically it would have left it wide open to the members to determine what could and could not have been said and what could and could not have been found. Voters (on balance) did not trust Oireachtas members that much.

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