Becker v The Board of Management of St Dominic's Secondary School & Ors, [2006] IEHC 130 (2006)

Docket Number:2006 1239P
Judge:Clarke J.

Neutral Citation Number: 2006 [IEHC] 130THE HIGH COURTDUBLIN2006 No. 1239PMARY BECKER ApplicantandTHE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT OF ST. DOMINIC'S RespondentsSECONDARY SCHOOL, CABRA, MARY KEANE,DEREK KICKHAM, PATRICIA FITZSIMMONS,KATHLEEN CROWLEY, TIM CHADWICK, KEVINBARRY AND MONICA KENNEDYJUDGMENT OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKEDELIVERED ON THURSDAY, 13TH APRIL 2006JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY MR. JUSTICE CLARKE AS FOLLOWSMR. JUSTICE CLARKE: In these proceedings theprincipal contention madeby Ms. Becker concerns an allegation that there hasbeen a conspiracy on the part of her employers, theBoard of Management of St. Dominic's School, todeprive her of fair procedures in relation todisciplinary proceedings which have been broughtagainst her in relation to her work as a teacher atthat school. A number of headings of damages areclaimed in the plenary summons together with aninjunction which seeks to restrain a disciplinaryinvestigation.The issue that is now before me, and which was thesubject of argument last week, is the question ofwhether an interlocutory injunction in those termsshould be granted which would have the affect ofrestraining any further progress in the disciplinaryproceedings which have been commenced.I should note in passing that there has been asignificant history of litigation between theparties. That history is too long to recite heresave to note that I take no particular view as to themerits or otherwise of any of the other issues whichhave been brought before the Courts and the result ofany of those cases insofar as they have been disposedof has not influenced my decision in this case.I should however note that it is of some materialityto the issues which I have to consider, that theexistence and nature of the variety of proceedingswhich have occurred between the parties shows asignificant breakdown in relations between Ms. Beckerand the school management, both its Board and thesenior staff, which is a factor that has to be takeninto account in considering the issues which I haveto determine today.Secondly, it is important to note that the issues inthese proceedings have to a significant extent movedon from the commencement of the proceedings. At thetime when these proceedings were commenced there wasunder consideration complaints by a Donal Gallagherand a Bridie Gallagher, both of whom are members ofthe staff of the school and are husband and wife,those complaints having commenced in the early partof 2005. It is suggested in these proceedings thatthe chairperson of the Board of Management and thehead mistress of the school were intent on ensuringan unfavourable outcome to that disciplinary process.A subcommittee consisting of two members of the Boardof Management was set up for the purposes ofinvestigating those complaints. At a meeting on19th January, members of that subcommittee werequestioned by counsel on behalf of Ms. Becker. It issuggested that answers given by the membersconcerned, that is to say the members of thesubcommittee, when taken in conjunction with what hadpreviously occurred at a meeting of the Board ofManagement on 31st August of last year imply a levelof disingenuity on the part of the members of thesubcommittee. And also that that disingenuity wouldhave been known to the Board who were, of course,present at the meeting of 31st August and alsopresent at the meeting of 19th January.On that basis the original challenge to thedisciplinary process involving the complaints made bythe Gallaghers' was based on a contention that boththe investigating subcommittee and the Board lackedthe capacity to act in a fair manner in respect ofthose disciplinary hearings.In support of the original challenge there wereexhibited transcripts of what were apparently taperecordings secretly made, both of conversations whichwould seem to have occurred in the school betweenvarious persons, and also a secret recording of theproceedings of the Board of Management.However, the proceedings have, as I have indicated,moved on since then, in that the Board of Managementhas given an undertaking not to proceed for thepresent with the existing complaints and therefore nointerlocutory issue arises in respect of those.However, a new complaint has been the subject of theinitiation of disciplinary proceedings arising out ofthe making of the very recordings, the transcripts ofwhich were exhibited in the course of theproceedings.In substance, the school contends that serious disciplinary issues arise out of the fact thatMs. Becker made secret recordings both of meetings ofthe Board of...

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