As to the general principles of assessing damages, there was on the hearing of this appeal no dispute as to the authority of the decision of this Court in Conway v. Irish National Teachers Organisation [1991] 2 IR 305. There, Finlay C.J. had this to say at page 316ff:

On the 17th of May, 2006, the second and final day of the hearing of this appeal, leading counsel for the defendants Mr. Michael Cush S.C. resumed his submissions with the announcement that he would be saying, as he aptly put it, “something by way of apology to Mr. Shortt”. At the conclusion of his submissions he said that he wished to:

This apology was tendered some fourteen years after the start of the chain of events which led to Mr. Shortt being wrongfully convicted of drug offences on the basis of consciously false garda evidence, eleven years after he was sentenced, five and a half years after his conviction was quashed by the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and just under four years after the declaration by the Court of Criminal Appeal that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. The apology was both belated and limited in the sense that no apology of any kind was offered until the surprise of the Court at its absence was made clear the previous day. The apology is carefully drafted, does not refer to Mr. Shortt’s innocence, and does not purport to be offered on behalf of An Garda Síochána. The plaintiff accepted it, in words both dignified and pointed, “in the spirit in which it was offered”.

The power of the Court to make an award for exemplary or punitive damages was clearly set out in Conway –v- INTO.

Not every aggravated or even malicious breach of rights requires an award of exemplary damages. They are not damages to which a plaintiff is entitled to as a claim of right. It is in principle a matter for the trial Judge in the first instance to determine, in the exercise of his discretion, whether an award of exemplary damages is necessitated by the special need to achieve or provide for the purposes which exemplary or punitive damages serve, as outlined above. Not every case of grave or aggravated breach of rights will necessitate such damages.

I consider that the grounds for awarding substantial exemplary damages in this case are compelling. Those grounds hardly need further elaboration involving as they did the undermining of the due process of law and inveigling, with perjured evidence, a jury of citizens, faithfully doing their duty, to convict an innocent man. They have also undermined the reputation of an important State body, An Garda Síochána. On a number of occasions I have referred above to the especially grave features of the acts committed by the Garda members in this case. Indeed the case is such an exceptional, egregious one that so manifestly calls for such an award that it is not a case in which is in any sense borderline or one which required any finer points of law concerning the liability to award such damages to be argued. Although I agree with the views of McCarthy J. in McIntyre -v- Lewis, that the restriction of exemplary damages to certain categories of cases as stated by Lord Devlin in Rookes –v- Barnard [1964] AC 1129 has no application in our law, that question does not need to be addressed in this case, if it needs to be further addressed at all. Here we have conduct particularly necessitating condemnation.

In all the circumstances of the case I am quite satisfied that a very substantial award of exemplary or punitive damages is warranted against the defendants. In my view it should be in the amount of €1,000,000.00.

Mr. Mohan adopted the statements in the judgments in Conway and in particular those of Finlay C.J. and McCarthy J., as to the nature and purpose of an award of exemplary damages. In this connection he emphasised that after fourteen years there had been no apology. He referred to the case of de Rossa v. Independent Newspapers [1999] 4 IR 432. This was a defamation case where the plaintiff had been awarded £300,000. Counsel said that allowing for the change from punts to euros and changes in money values, the award for general damages here was approximately what Mr. de Rossa had got. Counsel emphasised that he was not in any way trivialising the libel on Mr. de Rossa which was very grave. He emphasised, however, that there was of course no question of imprisonment in Mr. de Rossa’s case or of the ongoing public humiliation which accompanies a stigmatising conviction. He emphasised also that Mr. de Rossa had gone on to have a successful career including becoming a member of Government and later of the European Parliament whereas Mr. Shortt was ruined and disgraced.

Based on the matters set out above at some length, and bearing in mind the concession that this case is the worst of its kind of which the State Authorities are aware, and considering the unchallenged evidence of Mr. Shortt and those who gave evidence on his behalf, I concur in the awards of damages under each of the relevant heads in the sums proposed by the learned Chief Justice.

For the reasons set out above I would order the payment by the defendants jointly and severally to the plaintiff of the total sum of four million six hundred and twenty-three thousand eight hundred and seventy-one euro. (€4,623,871.00).