Judge criticises leading lawyer over conduct

A LEADING solicitor and the head of one of Dublin’s biggest law firms who acted for Denis O’Brien has been sharply criticised by the Moriarty Report over his conduct during the inquiry.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Michael Moriarty said information conveyed by the managing partner of LK Shields, Hugh Garvey, as being true and accurate but which was actually at variance with the facts, had caused the tribunal “needless difficulties, lengthy delays and significant expense”.

Mr Justice Moriarty said it was extremely difficult to accept that Mr Garvey overlooked or failed to appreciate the significance of contradictory information in his possession.

The judge said it was “incomprehensible” that a senior commercial solicitor had written a letter in strident tones denying knowledge of something of which he had been aware.

He described “buck-passing” by Mr Garvey when he appeared as a witness before the inquiry in July 2009 as “not particularly edifying”.

The chairman said there were three specific examples, including one relating to Mr Garvey where lawyers had promoted the interests of their clients through the non-disclosure or delay in producing “palpably relevant materials”.

The controversy related to attempts by the Tribunal to access a file held by the City of London Police on a complaint made by Denis O’Brien senior — father of Esat founder Denis O’Brien — in November 2002.

The complaint related to an alleged attempt at blackmail to prevent documentation coming into the public domain which would suggest a connection between Michael Lowry and the purchase of Doncaster Rovers by a company controlled by his son.

The City of London Police had told a British legal firm acting for the O’Briens that it had no objection to details of the blackmail complaint being released to the Tribunal.

However, Mr O’Brien Snr instructed his British lawyers to alter the content of letters sent to him and his then Irish lawyers, William Fry, which recommended that details about the alleged blackmail should be passed on to the tribunal.

Mr Justice Moriarty said the effect of such changes was to suggest that the British police had a very real concern about providing documentation to the tribunal.

In September 2003, William Fry informed the tribunal that another legal firm, LK Shields, was now handling the issue for the O’Briens.

The tribunal established that copies of both the original and altered letters of advice about the file on the blackmail claim were passed by William Fry to LK Shields.

Mr Justice Moriarty noted that the tribunal accepted in good faith a number of letters from LK Shields in 2004, which stated the City of London Police had concerns about releasing details of the blackmail complaint.

LK Shields then failed to provide an explanation for what the tribunal termed “patent inconsistencies”.

Eventually, LK Shields replied to the Tribunal in October 2006 to state that the O’Briens utterly rejected the implication that they had set out to mislead the Tribunal.

Mr Garvey did not return a call seeking a request for comment.

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