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Inspection of police documents in defamation action would undermine witness protection programme

By: Mark Tottenham BL, on August 28th, 2013

Keating v. Radio Telefis Eireann [2013] IEHC 393 (High Court, Kearns P, 29 July 2013)

High Court refuses to order inspection of police documents in defamation action arising from television programme on drug importation, on the grounds that disclosure of the documents would undermine both the state’s witness protection programme and police practices in the prevention, detection and prosecution of crime.

Non-party discovery - application for inspection of documents - defamation action against broadcaster arising from programme investigating importation of drugs - discovery ordered against An Garda Siochana - public interest privilege claimed in respect of each category of documents - plaintiff identified himself as Garda informant - allegation that plaintiff at risk if documents disclosed - witness protection programme - whether communication between Garda and DPP was privileged.
Quotation from judgment (courtesy of the Courts Service of Ireland):

“In determining where the balance between competing public interests should lie, I am satisfied that it is not in the public interest to grant the relief sought in the defendant’s motion herein as to do so would undermine the protection, preservation and integrity of the State’s Witness Protection Programme. ... I am further satified that to grant inspection of the documents already discovered would not be in the public interest as it would result in the disclosure of information of a confidential, sensitive nature relating to the practices of An Garda Síochána in the prevention and detection and prosecution of crime and potentially put at risk the lives and wellbeing of the individuals referred to therein.”

Full Text on Court Services Website>

Key Cases Cited

Keating v. Radio Telefis Eireann [2013] IESC 22
Ambiorix Ltd. v. Minster for the Environment (No. 1), [1992] 1 I.R. 277
Murphy v. Dublin Corporation [1972] I.R. 215
Breathnach v. Ireland (No.3) [1993] 2 I.R. 458
Livingstone v. Minister for Justice (Unreported, High Court, 2nd April, 2004)
Foley v. Bowden [2003] 2 I.R. 607
Gibb v. Minister for Justice [2013] IEHC 238