McFeely wins bid to stay out of jail over Priory Hall
BANKRUPT developer Thomas McFeely will not have to return to jail pending an appeal of a High Court order against him.
It follows the rejection yesterday by the Supreme Court of an application by Dublin City Council to lift a stay on his imprisonment pending the hearing of his appeal against a three-month prison term and €1m fine imposed on him for contempt of a High Court order on November 17 last.
Mr McFeely appealed the order, which was imposed by High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, over his failure to comply with undertakings that he complete remedial safety works at the Priory Hall apartments, Donaghmede, Dublin, within a specified timeframe.
He obtained a stay on that order, on the same day it was imposed, from the Supreme Court and was released from custody that day.
But the council, who brought the original High Court proceedings against him, yesterday asked the Supreme Court to vacate that stay, which would have meant Mr McFeely would have to go back to jail and would probably have served the three-month term before the appeal was heard.
The council argued Mr McFeely had misrepresented to the Supreme Court the nature of the grounds of his application for a stay on his jailing and fining.
McFeely had claimed it was because he did not carry out certain works before November 28 last, when in fact it was because he had not met weekly work targets set by the president of the High Court, said Conleth Bradley, for the council.
It was the council's case that Mr McFeely did not have an arguable case and the stay on jailing him should therefore be discharged, counsel said.
Mr McFeely's counsel, Frank Crean, said he did have an arguable case against the jailing order and if the stay on his imprisonment was lifted and his was then jailed, his client would be "irredeemably prejudiced".
Dismissing the council's application, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, on behalf of the three-judge court, said Mr McFeely's case was not beyond argument and there was an obvious argument to be made.
It was a serious matter to seek to have anybody committed to prison for contempt of court, whether a high official or just someone who has not paid their TV licence, he said.
Among the remarkable aspects of this case were that the city council had presumed, when Mr McFeely obtained his stay, was that he would not be able to get a five-judge Supreme Court to sit on a Thursday evening on November 17 last to hear his stay application, he said.
That was a mistaken judgment by the council and as a result the court only heard one side on that day even though Mr McFeely's solicitor had informed the council they would be making the stay application, Mr Justice Hardiman said.
The court said Mr McFeely's appeal should be dealt with soon, and ordered an application by made by him for a priority hearing.