Alan Shatter's legal team secure own costs in successful challenge to Data Commissioner's findings

By Ann O'Loughlin

The Data Protection Commissioner is still considering whether to appeal former Justice Minister Alan Shatter's successful challenge against a finding that his live TV disclosure of information concerning Independent TD Mick Wallace breached the Data Protection Act.

In the High Court last month, Mr Justice Charles Meenan upheld Mr Shatter's challenge.

When the case was briefly mentioned before the judge today, he granted Eileen Barrington SC, for Mr Shatter, her side's costs of the case against the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC).

Having been told by Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for the DPC, they were still considering whether to appeal, the judge put a stay on his orders pending a decision on that.

Mr Shatter went to the High Court over the Circuit Civil Court’s dismissal of his challenge to then DPC Billy Hawkes’ May 2014 decision his disclosure breached his statutory duties under the Data Protection Acts.

Alan Shatter

He denied his reference during an RTÉ Prime Time interview in May 2013 to Mr Wallace being allegedly cautioned by gardaí over allegedly using a mobile phone while driving amounted to a use and disclosure of personal data of Mr Wallace's.

Mr Wallace complained to the DPC after the Prime Time interview. His separate civil proceedings against the Minister for Justice, and against Mr Shatter personally, over the matter have yet to be heard.

Last month, Mr Justice Meenan allowed the appeal for reasons including findings that the information at issue - contained in an internal Garda email shown to the DPC but not provided to Mr Shatter - was not manual or automated "data", and Mr Shatter was not a "data controller" or "joint data controller", within the meaning of the Acts.

Mr Shatter had argued he never had, or saw, any written record of the information which was communicated to him during a conversation with then Garda Commissioner Martin Callanan and contended what he had said did not amount to "processing" it.

The judge also upheld Mr Shatter's claims the DPC prejudged the issue as to whether the information was personal data of Mr Wallace's and acted in breach of Mr Shatter's right to fair procedures in the manner in which he reached his May 2014 decision.

The DPC, in a public statement broadcast on RTÉ on May 20, 2013, had said the “key issue” was that the “personal data” of Mr Wallace was disclosed by Mr Shatter and it was for Mr Shatter to justify the basis for that, he said.

The DPC’s draft decision on the complaint also referred to a “written note” but it only emerged on May 6, 2014, the date of the Commissioner’s final decision upholding the complaint, the "written note" was in fact an email dated January 11, 2013.

All Mr Shatter knew about this email was that it was “internal to An Garda Síochána”, the judge said.

KEYWORDS: Alan Shatter, court


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