18 Aug 2022

Gun club member's challenge over level 5 Covid-19 restrictions resolved

A High Court challenge aimed at preventing gun club members from being prosecuted for shooting game during the currency of Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions has been resolved.

As part of the settlement the State confirmed before Mr Justice Charles Meenan that any person shooting on their own during the level 5 restrictions for the purpose of exercise, within 5km from their home is not in breach of the restrictions. 

The test action was brought against the Garda Commissioner and the State by John Flannery a farmer of Mill Road, Newtown, Nenagh in Co Tipperary.

In his action Mr Flannery, represented by Mark de Blacam SC, sought various reliefs including a declaration that he is not in breach of the temporary regulations, instructed under the 1947 Health Act to help combat the pandemic, by shooting game in the open countryside within the 5km limit during the current of the level 5 restrictions.

The case came before the court last November, when the level 5 restrictions were in place, and was adjourned to allow out of court discussions between the parties aimed at resolving the matter.

While the level 5 restrictions were eased earlier this month, the court heard that the statement provided clarity should similar restrictions be reimposed in the future.

The judge welcomed the settlement.

Mr Flannery is the holder of firearms licence has been a member of the National Association of Regional Game Council, which represents game clubs and supported the action, for over 30 years. 

Previously the court heard that during the currency of the Level 5 restrictions introduced by the Government to help prevent the spread of the Covid19 virus Mr Flannery had continued to shoot authorised species on lands owned by him and his family, for the purpose of taking exercise.

That practise is commonly known as 'rough shooting.'  Mr Flannery claimed that he has done his shooting within 5km from his family home.

In late October Mr Flannery said he learned that the Gardai deemed that anyone shooting pheasant, when that season opened at the Start of November, during the currency of the Level 5 restrictions was prohibited.

He said that the Gardai published details on its website regarding the Pheasant Shooting season which it said "normally involves shooting club members travelling to pheasant shoots around the country frequently in groups."

The details on the Garda website also said that this practise by shooting enthusiasts was regarded as sports shooting and was therefore prohibited while the Level 5 restrictions are in place.

Mr Flannery said the National Association sought clarification from the Gardai that individuals carrying out 'rough shooting' in compliance with the Level 5 restrictions was not prohibited.

He claimed no clarification was published. 

Mr Flannery claimed the information on the Garda website contained a misleading and false statements regarding the true legal position. He also feared that persons engaged in rough shooting could end up facing a criminal prosecution.

In the statement to the court the respondents confirmed that any person engaged in rough shooting on the their own for the purpose of exercise within 5km of their residence during the level 5 restrictions did not contravene the restrictions.

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