High Court: Claims for criminal conspiracy, malicious prosecution and false arrest dismissed

High Court: Claims for criminal conspiracy, malicious prosecution and false arrest dismissed

The High Court has dismissed a claim alleging criminal conspiracy, false arrest and malicious prosecution against An Garda Síochána.

Delivering judgment in the High Court, Mr Justice Cian Ferriter found that “no basis whatsoever” was made out for the allegations of criminal conspiracy, false arrests and malicious prosecution against members of An Garda Síochána that were “freely thrown about” by the plaintiff.

Mr Justice Ferriter also found that the plaintiff had improperly sought to re-litigate matters which had been properly dealt with via the criminal process, and that the proceedings were “a monument to the waste of time and resources inherent in vexatious proceedings”.


The plaintiff was the subject of an investigation headed by Sergeant Geary of Waterford Garda Station into alleged breaches of a protection order which was granted in favour of the plaintiff’s ex-wife on 14 January 2011. The plaintiff was charged with offences under the Domestic Violence Act 2018.

The plaintiff then escalated his campaign of contacting his ex-wife, including sending multiple text messages to his ex-wife, her workplace, her doctor and her solicitor, amongst others. The plaintiff also approached his ex-wife and frightened her whilst she was sitting in a parked car with her elderly mother and daughter, leading to an additional charge of harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997 against him.

In parallel, the plaintiff was also investigated in connection with complaints of non-payment for services that he availed of at a number of hotels and petrol stations nationwide. Following an investigation into same, the plaintiff was also charged with offences under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2011.

The plaintiff came before Dungarvan District Court on numerous occasions in connection with the above charges, and for consistent breaches of his bail conditions and instances of failing to attend court.


The plaintiff made a complaint concerning the Waterford gardaí to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) on 26 May 2011, which he subsequently withdrew in an apologetic statement made to gardaí following his hearing in the District Court.

The plaintiff subsequently made fresh complaints to GSOC, which prompted an investigation resulting in the delivery of the “Ó Cualáin report” on 23 October 2013. The report absolved the gardaí concerned, finding that there was “no evidence” to support any breach of discipline.

In addition to his complaints to GSOC, the plaintiff complained to the Department of Justice’s Independent Review Mechanism and to various other parties in respect of the above matters.

District and Circuit Court

A lengthy hearing in respect of all charges against the plaintiff, who appeared unrepresented, took place before Dungarvan District Court over four days in October 2011.

The plaintiff was convicted, with the hearing of the theft and fraud charges adjourned to 25 July 2012 to give the plaintiff an opportunity to repay the complainants. On that date, the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 was applied in respect of the theft and fraud offences.

The plaintiff, again unrepresented, appealed his convictions by way of a three-day full rehearing before Clonmel Circuit Court in December 2021.

Evidence was given by Sergeant Geary that due to poor weather conditions, a number of witnesses relevant to the prosecution of the theft and fraud charges could not attend court.

The Circuit Court affirmed the convictions in respect of the protection orders, harassment and theft and fraud relating to the Killiney Castle Hotel and the Gandon Inn, dismissed one charge in respect of a petrol station in Kilrush, and allowed the plaintiff’s appeal in respect of his other convictions.

High Court

The plaintiff sought leave of the High Court to challenge his convictions (following his appeal) in the Circuit Court by way of judicial review, which application was refused in March 2014. The plaintiff issued High Court proceedings claiming substantial damages in tort against the defendants.

Mr Justice Ferriter recognised that the law concerning malicious prosecution was well-established in this jurisdiction and was set out by the Supreme Court in McIntyre v. Lewis [1991] 1 IR 121, noting that “the mere fact of an acquittal does not ground a claim for malicious prosecution”.

The judge considered the plaintiff’s allegations that gardaí procured perjured evidence for his prosecution and had participated in a cover-up in the investigation of his complaints of misconduct against them, finding that “the plaintiff’s evidence as to the alleged criminal conspiracy was simply incredible”.

He noted that the plaintiff’s position was essentially that any adverse finding against him could only be explained by a conspiracy and cover-up, rather than the fact that he had “repeatedly engaged in wrongful behaviour and disregard of court orders”.

Mr Justice Ferriter highlighted that the “plaintiff’s inability to accept objective reality” was clear from the inconsistency in previous statements he made in October 2011 and July 2012 absolving the gardaí of wrongdoing, the content of which he did not accept and sought instead to contend that he made them falsely to gain a “tactical advantage”.

Finding Sergeant Geary to be “an honest, reliable and fair witness”, Mr Justice Ferriter proceeded to analyse the plaintiff’s claims.

The judge found that in respect of the protection order and harassment cases, the plaintiff simply could not establish the first element of the test for malicious prosecution, that the impugned criminal proceedings terminated in his favour.

According to Mr Justice Ferriter, “the same fatal hole” in the plaintiff’s case applied in respect of the offences pertaining to the Killiney Castle Hotel and the Gandon Inn, noting that whilst the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 was applied, he was not acquitted.

In respect of the charge relating to Kilrush petrol station, Mr Justice Ferriter found that although this matter had been dismissed, there was reasonable or probable cause for that prosecution and no indication of malice on part of the gardaí. He drew similar conclusions in respect of the other retail entities for whom witnesses did not appear in the Circuit Court.

Considering the prosecution of the plaintiff for his failure to appear in court, Mr Justice Ferriter accepted Sergeant Geary’s evidence that there was a reasonable basis to believe that the plaintiff’s reasons for his absence were spurious, such as needing to attend “top secret but very important business meetings”.

Mr Justice Ferriter remarked that Sergeant Geary had “devoted an enormous amount of time to the plaintiff”, receiving 479 emails from him from 2011 to 2013, and was forced to deal with groundless complaints which had a detrimental effect on Sergeant Geary personally, for which the judge expressed his sympathy.


Dismissing the plaintiff’s claim in its entirety, Mr Justice Ferriter concluded that the proceedings should never have been brought and wasted the time of the High Court and publicly-funded State lawyers, and had diverted the energy of gardaí from more deserving matters.

O’ Neill v. Ireland & Ors [2023] IEHC 520

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