Student challenges incorrect conviction contained on Garda vetting disclosure
A university student has brought a High Court challenge over what she says is the wrongful inclusion of a criminal conviction against her on a disclosure issued by the Garda National Vetting Bureau (NVB).
Kathleen Joyce, a third year social studies student at Trinity College Dublin, has brought proceedings over the disclosure which states she was convicted of theft and received an 18-week custodial sentence from a Welsh court in November 2017.
Ms Joyce says another person with the same name received the conviction and served the sentence at Stiles Prison in Manchester.
However, she has been unable to get the Garda National Vetting Bureau, through its formal dispute resolution process, to confirm that she is not the person convicted in 2017 in Wales and correct the vetting disclosure.
In judicial review proceedings against the Garda Commissioner and the National Vetting Bureau, Ms Joyce seeks an order directing the NVB to consider and determine the dispute process relevant to her previous convictions.
Ms Joyce, represented by Feichin McDonagh SC and Brendan Hennessy BL, instructed by Rogers Law Solicitors, told gardaí that the matter before the Welsh court had nothing to do with her and was committed by somebody else.
Mr McDonagh said it was confirmed to his client that the Garda Pulse system shows the person convicted in Wales is somebody else.
A picture attached to a record of the conviction clearly shows that his client and the person convicted are two different people, counsel said.
Despite being told the matter is being considered by the Garda NVB, no progress has been made on her request since April 2018.
As part of her studies, Ms Joyce is required to complete several work placements as part of her training, which requires her to undergo a vetting procedure conducted by the Garda NVB, which is disclosed to the college and anybody which takes her on placement.
She set out all her previous convictions in the vetting disclosure she submitted in September 2017 in accordance with her course.
Counsel told the court that his client received criminal convictions between 2006 and 2014 for offences including assault, handling stolen goods, and intoxication in a public place.
In the last five years, she has turned her life around, become drug- and alcohol-free through counselling, commenced her undergraduate studies at TCD and has not committed any offences nor had any convictions against her since 2014.
Counsel said Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Labour Party TD Jan O’Sullivan and Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall have communicated with gardaí seeking clarification and progress on the matter on Ms Joyce’s behalf.
Counsel said TCD had been supportive of Ms Joyce and the situation she has found herself in, but she cannot complete her course without doing the placements.
Last year the college made an exception and allowed her to bypass the work placement requirement until the vetting issue was resolved.
It was done on the understanding that the matter would be resolved before the next required placement due to commence this month, counsel said.
However, counsel said that the college has advised her if the matter is not resolved in the next few weeks, she would have to defer the year as she cannot complete the academic year without a placement.
Mr Justice Seamus Noonan granted permission to bring the action on an ex parte basis and made the matter returnable to a date later this month.
Aodhan O’Faolain, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.