Businessman David Agar is entitled to access legal documents in which his former business partner and close friend, George Tracey, made serious allegations against Mr Agar, who was not a party to the particular case, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Tracey made the allegations when unsuccessfully opposing a claim by AIB for summary judgment orders totalling €18m against him arising from various loans. Mr Agar emphatically rejected the allegations, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan noted.
He gave judgment for €18m against Mr Tracey earlier this month and, arising from that case, yesterday granted Mr Agar’s separate application for access to affidavits and other documents used in that case.
Noting Mr Agar’s application was “of some novelty” and “considerable importance”, he ruled Mr Agar was entitled to access the documents, given they were effectively opened in court and in light of the constitutional protection of a citizen’s right to their good name.
The judge added that he believed court permission is not actually required for Mr Agar to access the documents. The allegations were ventilated in civil proceedings in open court and the affidavits were “effectively... fully opened” as the allegations were partly or fully read out and referred to, he ruled.
The open administration of justice is “a vital safeguard in any free and democratic society” and the public are entitled to access to documents opened without restriction in open court, he said.
“Any system of secret court hearings could pave the way for judicial arrogance, overbearing judicial conduct, and abuse.”
The judge added he would put a stay on his orders to allow Mr Tracey’s side time to consider an appeal.
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