Becker v Board of Management of St Dominics Secondary School Cabra and Others

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMR. JUSTICE CLARKE
Judgment Date13 April 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] IEHC 130
Docket Number1239 P/2006
CourtHigh Court
Date13 April 2006
BECKER v BOARD OF MANAGEMENT OF ST DOMINICS SECONDARY SCHOOL CABRA & ORS
DUBLIN
MARY BECKER
Applicant

and

THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT OF ST. DOMINIC'S SECONDARY SCHOOL, CABRA, MARY KEANE, DEREK KICKHAM, PATRICIA FITZSIMMONS, KATHLEEN CROWLEY, TIM CHADWICK, KEVIN BARRY AND MONICA KENNEDY
Respondents

[2006] IEHC 130

1239 P/2006

THE HIGH COURT

EMPLOYMENT

Disciplinary procedures

Interlocutory injunction - Teacher -Disciplinary proceedings - Attempt to restrain - Injunction refused (2006/1239P -Clarke J - 13/4/2006) [2006] IEHC 130 Becker v Board of Management of St Dominic's Secondary School

The plaintiff contended that there was a conspiracy on the part of her employers to deprive her of fair procedures in relation to disciplinary procedures which were brought against her. She applied for an interlocutory injunction restraining any further progress in the disciplinary proceedings which had been commenced.

Held by Clarke J. in refusing the application for interlocutory relief that it was appropriate to allow the disciplinary process to proceed.

Reporter: P.C.

CARROLL v BUS ATHA CLIATH/DUBLIN BUS UNREP CLARKE 4.8.2005

MR. JUSTICE CLARKE
JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY MR. JUSTICE CLARKE AS FOLLOWS
1

MR. JUSTICE CLARKE: In these proceedings the principal contention made by Ms. Becker concerns an allegation that there has been a conspiracy on the part of her employers, the Board of Management of St. Dominic's school, to deprive her of fair procedures in relation to disciplinary proceedings which have been brought against her in relation to her work as a teacher at that school. A number of headings of damages are claimed in the plenary summons together with an injunction which seeks to restrain a disciplinary investigation.

2

The issue that is now before me, and which was the subject of argument last week, is the question of whether an interlocutory injunction in those terms should be granted which would have the affect of restraining any further progress in the disciplinary proceedings which have been commenced.

3

I should note in passing that there has been a significant history of litigation between the parties. That history is too long to recite here save to note that I take no particular view as to the merits or otherwise of any of the other issues which have been brought before the courts and the result of any of those cases insofar as they have been disposed of has not influenced my decision in this case.

4

I should however note that it is of some materiality to the issues which I have to consider, that the existence and nature of the variety of proceedings which have occurred between the parties shows a significant breakdown in relations between Ms. Becker and the school management, both its Board and the senior staff, which is a factor that has to be taken into account in considering the issues which I have to determine today.

5

Secondly, it is important to note that the issues in these proceedings have to a significant extent moved on from the commencement of the proceedings. At the time when these proceedings were commenced there was under consideration complaints by a Donal Gallagher and a Bridie Gallagher, both of whom are members of the staff of the school and are husband and wife, those complaints having commenced in the early part of 2005. It is suggested in these proceedings that the chairperson of the Board of Management and the head mistress of the school were intent on ensuring an unfavourable outcome to that disciplinary process.

6

A subcommittee consisting of two members of the Board of Management was set up for the purposes of investigating those complaints. At a meeting on 19th January, members of that subcommittee were questioned by counsel on behalf of Ms. Becker. It is suggested that answers given by the members concerned, that is to say the members of the subcommittee, when taken in conjunction with what had previously occurred at a meeting of the Board of Management on 31st August of last year imply a level of disingenuity on the part of the members of the subcommittee. And also that that disingenuity would have been known to the Board who were, of course, present at the meeting of 31st August and also present at the meeting of 19th January.

7

On that basis the original challenge to the disciplinary process involving the complaints made by the Gallaghers' was based on a contention that both the investigating subcommittee and the Board lacked the capacity to act in a fair manner in respect of those disciplinary hearings.

8

In support of the original challenge there were exhibited transcripts of what were apparently tape recordings secretly made, both of conversations which would seem to have occurred in the school between various persons, and also a secret recording of the proceedings of the Board of Management.

9

However, the proceedings have, as I have indicated, moved on since then, in that the Board of Management has given an undertaking not to proceed for the present with the existing complaints and therefore no interlocutory issue arises in respect of those. However, a new complaint has been the subject of the initiation of disciplinary proceedings arising out of the making of the very recordings, the transcripts of which were exhibited in the course of the proceedings.

10

In substance, the school contends that serious disciplinary issues arise out of the fact that Ms. Becker made secret recordings both of meetings of the Board of Management at which she was not present, and it would appear in respect of various other discussions and conversations which occurred within the school, unknown to the other persons who were involved in those conversations. In respect of all of those matters a disciplinary process has been initiated.

11

Therefore, in substance what is now sought to be restrained at this interlocutory stage is the disciplinary process in respect of that new complaint as against Ms. Becker to the effect that she has inappropriately and secretly recorded matters unknown to those who were involved, and in the case of the Board of Management, in circumstances which involved some degree of subterfuge.

12

In approaching the grant or refusal of an interlocutory injunction in a case such as this a number of legal principles, it seems to me, need to be applied. Firstly, it is my view that a Court should only intervene in the course of an uncompleted disciplinary process in a clear case. It does not seem to me to be consistent either with a proper invocation of the court's jurisdiction or the proper conduct of disciplinary processes in an employment context that the Court should be invited to intervene at a variety of stages in the course of that process.

13

This should not be taken to mean that there may not be circumstances where it is appropriate for the Court to intervene. But I would wish to emphasise that in my view the mere fact that there may be an argument as to whether a particular disciplinary process has taken an appropriate course does not of itself justify the Court in intervening (even where the proposition put forward by the Plaintiff is arguable) to prevent the process moving to its natural conclusion.

14

In general terms it seems to me that the circumstances in which the Court should intervene is where a step, or steps, or an act, has been taken in the process which cannot be cured and which is manifestly at variance with the entitlement to fair procedures.

15

In coming to a view as to whether that stage has been reached, it is important to note that the court should not assume that unfairness will occur in the future, nor should it make assumptions about the likely future...

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14 cases
  • Murphy v The Commissioner of an Garda Siochana
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 24 April 2023
    ...placed some reliance in that regard to my decision in the High Court in Becker v The Board of Management of St Dominic's School & Ors [2006] IEHC 130. It is true that Becker was a decision given on an application for an interlocutory injunction seeking to restrain an employment disciplinary......
  • O'Connell v Adelaide
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 22 July 2016
    ...is sought to restrain an incomplete disciplinary process. 102 In Becker v. Board of Management of St. Dominic's Secondary School [2006] IEHC 130, when presented with an application for an interlocutory injunction to restrain a disciplinary process that had been initiated by a school board a......
  • McKelvey v Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 11 November 2019
    ...to court, as derived from the judgments of Clarke J in Becker v Board of Management of Saint Dominic’s Secondary School, Cabra [2006] IEHC 130 and Rowland v An Post [2017] IESC 20, have not been challenged on this appeal. These stand as a proper interpretation of the circumstances where t......
  • Paraic Bergin v Galway Clinic Doughiska Ltd
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 2 November 2007
    ...2007 18 ELR 25 UNFAIR DISMISSALS ACT 1977 BECKER v BOARD OF MANAGEMENT OF ST DOMINIC'S SECONDARY SCHOOL UNREP CLARKE 13.4.2006 2006/6/991 2006 IEHC 130 MOONEY v AN POST 1998 4 IR 288 CHARLTON v HH THE AGA KHANS STUDS SOCIETE CIVILE 1999 ELR 136 O'SULLIVAN v MERCY HOSPITAL CORK LTD UNREP CL......
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