The Morris Tribunal
Ruling of the Chairman
December 20th, 2004.
In consequence of the break for Christmas, I have taken the opportunity to review the transcripts in order to assess progress to date. The situation that emerges is alarming. Of the last two witnesses, one, namely Superintendent McGinley, has taken four weeks and the other, Superintendent Shelley has taken three weeks. This is unsupportable if the Tribunal is to fulfil its mandate of reporting on the situation in the Donegal Garda division with expedition. The Tribunal has already sat to hear evidence on this module, concerning the investigation into the death of Richard Barron and the Peoples extortion calls, for 106 days. We are now moving on to a consideration of the treatment of the persons arrested in consequence of same. We simply have to move more expeditiously in future.
It is important for any hearing to establish a rhythm. Constant interruptions for the sake of objections to what is being said, applications on matters essentially outside the terms of the Tribunalís business and extended cross-examinations have destroyed the progress of our work. My function is to set the procedures for our hearings. This has to be done in fairness to all the parties and with the ultimate objective of reporting to the Oireachtas in early course in mind. The rulings that are now made are directed to all the parties, including my own legal team out of a sense of the need to display even-handed treatment. As and from the resumption of hearings the following procedures will be applicable:
- No applications will be heard from any party. If any application needs to be made by any party, then notice in writing must be received by the Tribunal solicitor giving an outline of the application and the material on which it is made. When any such application is made, I will consider if it is necessary. My decision will be posted on the Tribunal website. Such decision will state if the application needs to be made and the date, if any, on which I will hear same.
- No further interruptions of the evidence of any party will be heard. If there is an objection, then same can be made in writing and I will consider it at the breaks in the evidence. As there are three of these a day, for lunch and for the stenographers in the morning and the evening, that will be sufficient to fairly and adequately deal with same.
- A time limit is now being placed on all cross-examinations. My legal team will be limited to three days and one hour on re-examination. They have rarely exceeded this, in any event. However, more benefit will be gained by concentrating points. Any other party will have a day as a maximum. No party can transfer his or her time to any other party. Parties are urged to proceed with expedition. If there is a need to extend a cross-examination, then application can be made in writing and I will rule on it. The vast majority of witnesses will be considered more quickly. If there is a need for a private session, I will rule on the matter privately.
- The practice of shouting at witnesses and calling them degrading names will not be tolerated any further. The audio recordings of the hearings are ample testimony to the nature of this abuse: a matter that no court would tolerate.
- I would finally like to remind parties that there is no general right to cross-examine unless a witness attacks a represented party. The duty of cross-examination, including testing the credit of a witness, in order to uncover facts rests with the Tribunal legal team: a task, which they have discharged with enormous dedication. If on completion of their examination, no attack is made by a witness on a particular represented party, then I reserve the right to curtail a general trawl through the evidence by way of an exploration as to where the truth may be found.
Mr Justice Frederick R Morris
December 20th 2004