Garda raids blamed for bingo hall profitability damage

Garda raids on the 1,000-seater Rock Bingo hall in Togher were blamed by the proprietor for putting off big charities from holding their fundraising events at the premises at the High Court in Cork yesterday.

James Barber of Omega Leisure Ltd, which operates as Rock Bingo, said raids of the premises on Jan 1, 4, 6, and 8 had damaged the reputation and profitability of the centre.

Mr Barber who recently won his case establishing his legal entitlement to operate the business commenced his legal action against the State for damages.

Mr Barber said that after the trauma of going through the legal process to have the enterprise deemed legal they were then raided four times in January which “put the tin hat on it” in terms of their ability to attract big charities to run big fundraising nights there.

He said that some of the key charities with whom he had been associated, such as Marymount Hospice and St Luke’s Home, were not even responding to their letters.

Dermot Gleeson SC asked Mr Barber what effect the gardaí raids had on him generally.

“I have been hurt and damaged. I am a retired person, my friends and acquaintances have stood by me. The real damage is the damage to me relative to charitable associations. I thought they would have more or less queued up to come on board.

“Marymount were — if you like — our anchor tenant. They were absolutely delighted at the idea of using a designated bingo hall but they withdrew totally having received a phone call,” said Mr Barber.

He said that he now expected it would not be until next month before the business operates at a profit.

Mr Gleeson said in his opening address that Mr Barber was not bringing his action in order to dip into the coffers of the State, but for vindication of his good name in business and in the community.

Counsel described the search warrants as a brutal and self-serving method for the State operating with the ulterior motive of trying to alter the behaviour of the Barber family rather than in furtherance of the investigation of a crime.

Mr Gleeson said there was no crime and that the need for the search warrants did not exist.

“The Barber family are at their wits’ end. They have done what they were advised to do, the High Court has facilitated them, an answer to the key question was obtained (in Dec 2010) but for the following three weeks they are bombarded with accusations of criminality, unspecified,” he said.

The State did not reply to any of these allegations yesterday and the case continues at the High Court sitting in Cork before Mr Justice Frank Clarke.

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