Uncooperative witnesses to pay own legal costs

Key tribunal witnesses who want their legal costs covered by the State will have to argue that they were not uncooperative when appearing before the inquiry.

Key tribunal witnesses who want their legal costs covered by the State will have to argue that they were not uncooperative when appearing before the inquiry.

In the next phase of his work, the chairman of the tribunal, Judge Alan Mahon, will contact all of the parties who are in danger of being declared an uncooperative witness.

These people will then have to make a submission to the judge to support their case to have their legal costs covered.

The tribunal cannot finalise its bill to the State until it has assessed all of the applications.

Ultimately, all legal bills will be paid through the Department of Finance, if the individuals are not told to pay their own way.

Under its terms of reference, the chairman of the tribunal has the power to refuse to pay the costs for any witness who failed to co-operate or any party which did not properly assist inquiries.

The final report rejected suggestions that the final cost of its hearings would run to over €1bn. It said it had publicly stated the costs would not exceed €300m and it still believed this to be a realistic estimate.

The tribunal, and its predecessor the Flood Tribunal, was involved in 32 separate court cases predominantly taken in the High Court.

These were taken by a plethora of witnesses and, in some cases, by the tribunal itself against media organisations or individuals.

The tribunal has also to rule on a number of issues which arose during the course of its hearings. It said costs arising from the 2003 compliance ruling, on whether Liam Lawlor was adhering to an order to produce documents, had been put on hold until after the publication of its report.

In its recommendations the tribunal said future inquiries should be allowed to compel people to attend private hearings. This, it said, would dramatically reduce the time of hearings and the costs.

The tribunal heard evidence from more than 400 witnesses. Only a small proportion of those were explicitly referenced as having given incorrect or untruthful evidence.


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