Supreme Court sets date in March to hear O’Doherty’s and Waters’ appeal of court losses

Supreme Court sets date in March to hear O’Doherty’s and Waters’ appeal of court losses

In March the Supreme Court is due to hear a case Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters have brought regarding their challenge of Ireland’s lockdown legislation. The pair of extremists had previously attempted to challenge the laws in the High Court but a judge there dismissed the case. They appealed the dismissal in the Court of Appeal which agreed with the High Court’s decision. O’Doherty and Waters then petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case. Last November the court issued a determination agreeing to do so but within strict limits.

The Supreme Court has provisionally listed 15 March as the date it’ll now hear their appeal of their losses.

Marching ahead

In its determination that it published last November, the Supreme Court pointed out that it can grant leave to appeal if it believes the case in question is “a matter of general public importance”. It can also hear an appeal “in the interests of justice”, all of which falls under the 33rd Amendment to the Constitution. The court argued that the lockdown laws “are capable of having far reaching effect and are of general legal importance” and agreed to hear O’Doherty’s and Waters’ appeal.

But the court ruled that it will only hear their appeal on the specific issue of the lockdown legislation and whether or not it’s proportionate to the risk the pandemic poses. 

So far there’s been one hearing in relation to case management of the appeal. Held on 26 January, case management involves a judge overseeing the particulars of the case in order to make sure it can proceed. The judge examines issues such as “whether or not the submissions filed fall within the parameters of the appeal permitted” and ensuring all the appropriate documentation has been submitted.

Case after case

O’Doherty and Waters have suffered a number of legal setbacks over the course of the pandemic. Judge Charles Meenan dismissed their initial challenge of the state’s lockdown laws in the High Court in May 2020. In his ruling he criticised the two far-right agitators, writing that they “relied upon their own unsubstantiated views” and that “empty rhetoric and a bogus historical parallel are not a substitute for facts”. 

Following this they challenged their loss in the Court of Appeal which also rejected their case in March last year. Judge George Birmingham argued the two hadn’t raise any serious legal issue. Going on, he wrote they’d “chosen rhetoric over substance and fiction and distortion over fact. In my view, they have singularly failed to meet the threshold of establishing an arguable case”. 

O’Doherty then lost a separate case in the High Court in July when it granted Beaumont Hospital an injunction against the failed politician. She had accused the hospital of being a “drug pushing operation” and of breaking Irish and international law by administering COVID-19 vaccinations. The judge ordered O’Doherty to remove her videos in which she made the claims and prohibited her from republishing them.

Two months later a judge in Bray District Court found O’Doherty guilty of failing to provide her details to a garda, resisting arrest and intending to breach the peace. A garda had arrested O’Doherty in August 2020 just outside Bray while the far-right extremist was hanging a banner over the N11. A judge handed her down a two-month suspended sentence and a €750 fine.

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