Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Aodhan O'Faolain

A soldier who claims he tested positive for cocaine after his drink was spiked has brought a High Court action aimed at preventing his discharge from the Permanent Defence Forces.

The action has been brought by Private Leon Gordon, who denies deliberately taking cocaine or any controlled substance.

He says that without his knowledge he ingested the substance after his drink was spiked by another individual. That person has admitted spiking the drink, and has apologised for their actions.

Despite that person’s admission, the court heard that Private Gordon’s discharge from the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) is due to occur in the coming days.

Random drug test

The court heard that Private Gordon, following a random drug test conducted by the PDF in September 2020, tested positive for cocaine.

As a result, he underwent an internal disciplinary process. Following an initial hearing his commanding officer recommended that he be discharged from the PDF, which he appealed.

Initially Private Gordon, a solider for some 14 years who also works part-time as a barman, could not explain why cocaine was in his system.

At the High Court on Wednesday Nathan Jones Bl, instructed by O’Regan Little solicitors, for Private Gordon said that in advance of this appeal his client received a communication from a local politician Cllr Gino O’Boyle.

They both had been at a social occasion in September 2020, a few days before the random drug test was conducted.

Cllr O’Boyle informed his client that another person, who had a reputation for spiking drinks with controlled drugs, had also been at the same event.

Counsel said that third party had admitted to his client, in a statement, that he had spiked the applicant’s drink and apologised for his actions.

This information was relayed to the PDF Officer hearing the appeal. However, the recommendation that Private Gordon be discharged was not reversed by the officer hearing the appeal.

Complaint

That officer deemed held that the new evidence about the spiked drink was not credible because Private Gordon was unwilling to make a complaint to the gardaí about the matter.

In his action Private Gordon claims the decision to recommend his discharge is flawed on grounds including that the officer hearing the appeal had not taken all relevant matters before him properly into account.

There was also a failure by the officer hearing the appeal to call the person who allegedly spiked the drink or Cllr O’Boyle to give evidence. This amounted to a breach of Private Gordon’s rights to fair procedures.

It was further submitted that the officer hearing the appeal had acted irrationally and outside of his powers by finding that the defence of involuntary ingestion lacked credibility.

The outcome of the appeal was also flawed and unlawful because that hearing had proceeded in the absence of a nominated person to assist Private Gordon.

Minister for Defence

As a result, Private Gordon has brought judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General where he seeks orders including one quashing his commanding officer’s decision to discharge him from the PDF.

The matter came before Mr Justice Michael Twomey during Wednesday’s vacation sitting of the High Court. The Judge said that he was satisfied, on an ex-parte basis, to grant the applicant permission to bring his challenge.

The judge also placed a stay, pending the outcome of the proceedings, on the discharge. The matter will return before the court after the new legal term commences in October.

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