Monday, December 7, 2009

Court Orders Partial Release... Priest Sex Abuse

Original article
10/16/09

The High Court has ruled most of the report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation into the handling by the Catholic Church and State authorities of allegations of suspected child sex abuse by clerics may be published.

However, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan excluded from publication, at least until next May, one chapter of the report related to a particular cleric on grounds it may prejudice criminal proceedings against that cleric.

He also directed that some 21 references to the same cleric in other parts of the report should also not be published for now.

The judge adjourned to May 5th next year the issue of whether or not there should be publication then of those parts of the report excluded from publication now.

He said his decision allowing publication of the vast bulk of the report was made after considering and balancing the paramount importance of an accused person’s right to a fair trial, the right of the community to prosecute and the public interest.

Having considered all those factors, he had concluded Chapter 19 and other references in the report to a particular person might prejudice criminal proceedings involving that person and he excluded these from publication until such time as the court directed otherwise.

The judge also noted the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern is under a duty to publish the report “as soon as possible”. The report was provided to the Minister by the Commission on July 21st last.

Mr Ahern had applied to the court for directions on publication arising from his concern that publication of some extracts from the report might prejudice criminal proceedings.

Mr Justice Gilligan today gave his reserved judgment on the Minister’s application, made under the Commissions Investigation Act 2004.

The application itself was heard in private on October 1st and 2nd. Four clerics who are defendants in criminal proceedings “relevant to an act or omission in the report” were notice parties to the hearing and the judge heard submissions on their behalf as well as on behalf of the Commission, the Minister, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General.

The 2004 Act provides, should the High Court consider publication of all or part of such a report would prejudice criminal proceedings, to direct the report or part of it not be published for a specified period of time. The judge observed the act does not envisage that elements of a report capable of prejudicing criminal proceedings which are pending or in progress should never be published or that the court could permanently censor elements of the report.

He said he had considered it appropriate the application for directions on publication be heard in private and that his decision be delivered in public.

The judge said he had considered the affidavits and submissions in the case and had balanced the “paramount importance” of an accused to a fair trial, the right of the community through the DPP to prosecute and the public interest in the publication of the report.

He could not, in his judgment, set out the specific details of each of the ongoing criminal proceedings involving the notice parties by reason, as submitted by the DPP, of the right of the community to prosecute and the accused persons’ right to a fair trial.

He said he had regard to the nature of the offences which the notice parties were facing in criminal proceedings, the present state of those proceedings and any relevant surrounding circumstances.

He also had regard to the likely trial date in conjunction with all of the material in any way relevant to each notice party and to the general content of the report.

He had also taken into account a trial judge can make appropriate rulings, directions and charge to a jury and the “robustness” of the jury system.

Having considered all those factors, he had concluded a specified part of the report - Chapter 19 - and some 21 references in the body of the report to a particular person might prejudice criminal proceedings and these should not be published until the court directed otherwise.

He did not consider any separate direction was required with regard to the various other notice parties.

Having given his decision, the judge heard, in private, submissions as to the form of order to be drawn up. This afternoon, the judge made that order public.


It excludes from publications the entire of chapter 19 and some 21 other references in the report, including entire paragraphs, particular sentences and particular words.

He also ordered the notice parties should get their costs, on an agreed basis, against the Minister.

The report was compiled followed an investigation by the Commission into how clerical child sex abuse allegations involving a sample of 46 priests were handled by Catholic Church and State authorities in Dublin between January 1st, 1975, and April 30th, 2004.

On receipt of the report last July, Mr Ahern referred it to the Attorney General who, in turn, advised it be referred to the High Court. In doing so, he said he was anxious the matters dealt with in the report were “put into the public domain as quickly as possible”.

He also expressed concern nothing should be done that would harm the prospects of perpetrators of abuse being brought to justice.