Senior Defence Forces officer's case opens before High Court

Senior Defence Forces officer's case opens before High Court

A senior army officer's High Court challenge over the State’s refusal to provide him with an independent report into his allegations of corruption and misconduct within the military has opened before the High Court.

The action has been brought by the Defence Forces head of legal services Colonel Jerry Lane against the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General.  

In opposing the action, the respondents deny any wrongdoing and argue Col Lane is not entitled to any of the reliefs sought. 

Opening the case, Col Lane's counsel Roughan Banim SC said the case arises out of concerns raised by his client several years ago that preferential treatment was being afforded to another member of the Defence Forces to the detriment of other members.

Counsel said in 2010, his client attempted to raise the issue of the other officer's alleged preferential treatment through the chain of military command, but nothing was done. 

Col Lane's concerns were that the other officer was selected for, but ultimately did not get, a senior position which Col Lane claimed the other person was ineligible for. 

Col Lane, from Bandon, Co Cork, made a protected disclosure to members of Seanad Éireann regarding his concerns, which were raised in the Seanad in 2011.

Arising out of the disclosure, he claims he was subjected to a range of penalties, including threats of dismissal and involuntary retirement from the Defence Forces, but those threats were subsequently set aside.

Arising out of his complaints, the Minister for Defence had in 2016 appointed Colm Smyth SC to conduct an independent review of the allegations. Arising out of issues he raised by Col Lane, the Department of Defence decided it would not be placing any reliance on Mr Smyth’s report, that it would not be published and would be kept in a sealed file.

A fresh review was established into the allegations, to be conducted by Frank Callanan SC.

In his action, Col Lane seeks to have sight of the first report as any findings or conclusions in that could affect his reputation. 

Col Lane claims the refusal to give him the report breached his constitutional rights and fair procedures.

In his action, Col Lane seeks an order quashing the refusal to provide him with a copy of the first report and directing he be provided with that. He also seeks damages and a declaration the respondents have acted unlawfully and in excess of jurisdiction by failing to provide him with a copy of the report.

The claims are denied. 

The case opened late on Tuesday afternoon before Mr Justice Michael Twomey, after out of court talks between the parties failed to resolve the dispute.  

The hearing, which is expected to last several days, continues.

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