The operator of a bingo hall in Cork has sued gardaí and the State for damages arising from a number of allegedly “vindictive” garda raids on the premises.
Omega Leisure Ltd, operating as Rock Bingo Club, has alleged gardaí continued to raid its premises at Deanrock, Togher, despite a High Court finding last December that its activities were lawful. Four raids were carried out in January, it said.
Omega, which operates as an agent for clubs or charities with licences for bingo nights, is suing Garda Superintendent Charles Barry, the Garda commissioner, the justice minister, Ireland, and the Attorney General. The company alleges interference with its economic interests.
The matter was mentioned at the High Court in Dublin yesterday before Mr Justice Clarke, who listed it for hearing on Mar 29.
Among a series of claims, the company alleges the raids were carried out in such a manner to cause maximum economic loss and to intimidate people into not playing bingo at the premises. It alleges the raids amounted to deliberate harassment of the company.
Omega also contends the defendants have wrongfully sought to allege the Dec 9 High Court decision did not amount to an actual determination of the lawfulness of the Omega operation. In seeking further search warrants since, the defendants had ignored the court order, it is alleged.
The defendants denied the company’s claims.
Previously, the court was told Supt Barry, of Togher Garda Station, obtained warrants to carry out four searches of the 1,000-seater hall on Jan 1, 4, 6 and 8.
Omega has sought documents from the State concerning what advice was provided by it to Supt Barry after he told Mr Justice Frank Clarke the searches were based on advice the company was trading without a lawful licence.
December’s ruling arose out of proceedings where Omega had challenged a Nov 2011 raid on its premises. Mr Justice Clarke held Omega was lawfully operating the bingo hall as an agent for a charity.
In that decision, the judge also dismissed claims Supt Barry, who had sought the warrants to search the premises in Nov 2011 was guilty of misfeasance in public office. The State had denied any wrongdoing and argued gardaí should not be restrained carrying out their duties under the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956.
During the earlier proceedings, the court heard Omega entered an agency agreement last October with the Mercy Hospital Foundation, a charity which raises money for the Mercy University Hospital in Cork.
Under that agreement, Omega was to run bingo games for the charity and was entitled to a maximum 40% of the proceeds.
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