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High Court quashes Achill Rovers defamation order

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High Court quashes Achill Rovers defamation order


Anton McNulty

The High Court has quashed a Circuit Court order which awarded damages of €38,500 to a Mayo league referee who claimed he was defamed by members of the Achill Rovers committee.
Stephen Manning of Dooagh, Achill was awarded the damages by Judge James O’Donohoe in Westport Circuit Court on February 22 last after he successfully sued Achill Rovers Chairman, George Collins of Dooagh, Achill, the club secretary, Philip McNulty of Bunnacurry, Achill and seven co-defendants for libel following a letter they wrote on June 11, 2009.
It was alleged the letter claimed that Mr Manning who was refereeing an under-12 match, stood at the dressing room door looking at girls when they were undressing.
However, the defendants appealed the decision and sought a judicial review of the Circuit Court decision and following a number of adjournments, the matter finally came before the President of the High Court, Mr Nicholas Kearns, on Monday last, July 18 at The Four Courts in Dublin. 
The Applicants were seeking a number of reliefs, most notably an Order of Certiorari by way of Judicial Review to quash the decision and Order of Judge James O’Donohue.
Achill Rovers were represented by Michael O’Higgins SC, along with Catherine Walsh, BL and instructed by Dermot Morahan and presented an affidavit before the Court setting out the grounds upon which the relief was sought.
They argued that the judge erred in law when awarding the sum of €38,500 to Mr Manning when the maximum jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is approximately €38,100. They also argued the Judge had failed to adhere to the principles of natural justice and fair procedures in his conduct of the hearing; and the Judge refused to allow Achill Rovers’ Barrister to cross-examine the defendant and he did not allow any evidence from the defendants’ witnesses.
It was pleaded in the Affidavit that Achill Rovers legal team had been unfairly criticised and the plaintiff’s barrister was given excessive latitude in opening his case. It was contended that the Judge erred in law in striking out Achill Rovers’ defence in circumstances where there was no formal application to do so.
The Notice Party did not contest the application and Judge Kearns subsequently granted an Order of Certiorari. This means the decision made in the Circuit Court is completely nullified and is legally deemed to have never happened, and the matter is now remitted to the Circuit Court for re-hearing.