Former justice minister Alan Shatter has asked a judge to overturn a decision of the Data Protection Commissioner that he breached data protection laws when he said on RTÉs Prime Time that TD Mick Wallace had benefited from garda discretion with regard to penalty points.
Eileen Barrington SC told Judge Jacqueline Linnane in the Circuit Civil Court that Mr Shatter believed the commissioner’s decision was characterised by a number of serious errors.
Ms Barrington told the court that in May 2013 the then minister and Mr Wallace were involved in a televised discussion on the penalty points system and Mr Shatter had stated that Mr Wallace seemed to have a problem with gardaí exercising their discretion.
During the programme the minister revealed that in May 2012 Mr Wallace had been stopped by gardaí in relation to his use of a mobile phone while driving and told that a fixed penalty charge could issue and he could be given penalty points. The garda had used his discretion and simply warned him not to do it again.
It was the statement on Prime Time by the then minister that had led to Mr Wallace making a complaint to the data commissioner and the subsequent decision of the commissioner that had led to the appeal before the court.
Ms Barrington said that Paul Anthony McDermott, counsel for the data commissioner, made the point that Mr Shatter, no longer being minister, was not entitled to appeal the data commissioner’s decision and the only one who could was the current minister for justice. This was not accepted by Mr Shatter.
Mr Shatter would also be contesting the contention that he was a joint controller with the Garda Commissioner of the data concerned.
Shortly after the complaint was lodged the commissioner, Billy Hawkes, made a public statement to RTÉ news to the effect that personal data had been disclosed by Mr Shatter and it was for Mr Shatter to justify that disclosure.
It was Mr Shatter’s case this constituted pre-determination of matters by the data commissioner which had been inappropriate for the commissioner not having viewed the data concerned. It was part of Mr Shatter’s case the commissioner was rushed into making a decision as a result of having told the Sunday Independent he would make his decision within four weeks.
Mr McDermott said Mr Shatter, in his capacity as minister, had been given personal information by the then garda commissioner about Mr Wallace and had decided to “deploy” it on television.
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