Justice Hogan in refusing to allow Mike Garde, The Director of the Dialogue Ireland Trust to give evidence has created a framework for the protection of the work of those defending the human rights of cult victims, which has ramifications for Europe and more broadly for victims of cults world wide.
We need to study this in greater detail but what appeared to have a narrow focus in dealing with an ancient act to procure evidence for foreign jurisdictions has conspired to be a vehicle in the defence of the victims of cults and their support by groups like Dialogue Ireland.
Final Version September 20,2012
PDf of judgement: Judgment of Hogan j re Applications to Depose Tallant & Garde
Whether the court should order Mr. Garde to Give evidence
64. I now turn to the position of Mr. Garde. While Mr. Garde is not a journalist in the strict sense of the term, it is clear from that his activities involve the chronicling of the activities of religious cults. Part of the problem here is that the traditional distinction between journalists and laypeople has broken down in recent decades, not least with the rise of social media. It is probably not necessary here to discuss questions such as whether the casual participant on an internet discussion site could invoke Goodwin-style privileges, although the issue may not be altogether far removed from the facts of this case.
65. Yet Mr. Garde’s activities fall squarely within the “education of public opinion” envisaged by Article 40.6.1. A person who blogs on an internet site can just as readily constitute an “organ of public opinion” as those which were more familiar in 1937 and which are mentioned (but only as examples) in Article 40.6.1.namely, the radio, the press and the cinema. Since Mr. Garde’s activities fall squarely within the education of public opinion, there is a high constitutional value in ensuring that his right to voice these views in relation to the actions of religious cults is protected. It does not require much imagination to accept that critical information in relation to the actions of those bodies would dry up if Mr. Garde could be compelled to reveal this information, whether in the course of litigation or otherwise. It is obvious from the very text of Article 40.6.1 that the right to educate (and influence) public opinion is at the very heart of the rightful liberty of expression. That rightful liberty would be compromised – perhaps even completely jeopardised – if disclosure of sources could readily be compelled through litigation.
66. It follows, therefore, that Mr. Garde has a similar interest to that of Ms. Tallant in ensuring that his sources are likewise protected. Of course, just as with Ms. Tallant, he is plainly a relevant witness to the Colorado litigation. Ms. Skinner (and others associated with Mr. Cornec) also seems to have either met with or corresponded with him. But his evidence would also be substantially confirmatory of material already in possession of Ms. Morrice. There are, moreover, no strong, competing arguments to the contrary which would weigh against the public interest in ensuring that Mr. Garde is free from disclosing his sources or the contents of these discussions.
67. Applying, in essence, therefore, the same balancing test as already applied in the case of Ms. Tallant, I would hold that Mr. Garde is entitled to assert an immunity from disclosure in the present case.
The position of journalists under Colorado law
68. In view of the conclusions I have just reached, it would not seem to me to be necessary or desirable that I should express a view on the question of foreign law presented before me, namely, the construction of Colorado’s press freedom statute and whether Ms. Tallant and Mr. Garde would have been able to avail of it in order to assert a journalistic privilege conferred by statute.
69. In conclusion, therefore, I respectfully decline to give effect to the letters rogatory for the reasons stated in this judgment.
Filed under: Cultism