Breathnach v Minister for Justice

CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date01 December 2003
Docket Number[2002 No. 718 J.R.]
Date01 December 2003
Breathnach v. Minister for Justice
Stiofáin Breathnach
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Respondent and The Governor of Wheatfield Prison, Notice Party
[2004] IEHC 64
[2002 No. 718 J.R.]

High Court

Criminal law - Prisoners - Temporary release - Fair procedures - Duty to give reasons - Condition that prisoner be handcuffed - Whether conditions attached to temporary release reviewable - Whether reasons required to be given for conditions attached to temporary release - Temporary Release of Offenders (Wheatfield) Rules 1989 (S.I. No. 136), rr. 3, 4, 5 and 6 - General Prisons (Ireland) Act 1877 (40 & 41 Vict., c. 49), s. 40 - Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914 (4 & 5 Geo. 5, c. 58), s. 17(2) - Criminal Justice Act 1960 (No. 27), s. 2 - Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997(No. 4), s. 19(2)

Section 2(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1960 provides as follows:-

"The Minister may make rules providing for the temporary release, subject to such conditions (if any) as may be imposed in each particular case, of persons serving a sentence of penal servitude or imprisonment, or of detention in Saint Patrick's Institution."

Rule 3 of the Temporary Release of Offenders (Wheatfield) Rules 1989 states that:-

"The Governor, or other officer for the time being in charge of Wheatfield may, subject to -

  • (a) any condition which the Governor or such other officer may impose,

  • (b) any directions of the Minister, and

  • (c) any exceptions which may be specified in directions of the Minister, release temporarily for a specified period persons detained therein."

The applicant applied for temporary release from Wheatfield prison and was granted such release but on the condition that he remain handcuffed during his release. The applicant argued that the imposition of this condition amounted to a decision which was unreasonable and that as the respondent refused to put any material before the court showing the basis for the imposition of the condition the court should conclude that there was no material capable of supporting such a condition.

Held by the High Court ( Ó Caoimh ó caoimhJ.), in refusing the relief sought, that the decision of the respondent might be quashed if found to be irrational. The respondent enjoyed a particularly wide discretion in the granting of temporary release and the notice party had a discretion to release the applicant subject to any conditions which he chose to impose or any directions of the respondent. Given the nature of the discretion afforded to the respondent and notice party under the rules, the interests of justice did not require the giving of reasons for the impugned decision. The applicant, therefore, had failed to establish that the decision to impose the condition was irrational. In the absence of discovery of the terms of any directions of the respondent, it could not be concluded that the condition in question exceeded the terms of such directions.

The State (Daly) v. Minister for Agriculture [1987] I.R. 165 distinguished.

Cases mentioned in this report:-

In re Austin [1998] N.I. 327.

Kinahan v. Minister for Justice [2001] 4 I.R. 454.

McHugh v. Minister for Justice [1997] 1 I.R. 245.

Murray & Murray v. Ireland [1991] I.L.R.M. 465.

O'Keeffe v. An Bord Pleanála [1993] 1 I.R. 39; [1992] I.L.R.M. 237.

Ryan v. Governor of Limerick Prison [1988] I.R. 198.

The State (Daly) v. Minister for Agriculture [1987] I.R. 165; [1988] I.L.R.M. 173.

The State (Keegan) v. Stardust Compensation Tribunal [1986] I.R. 642; [1987] I.L.R.M. 202.

Judicial review

The facts are summarised in the headnote and are more fully set out in the judgment of Ó Caoimh ó caoimh J., infra.

By order of the High Court (O'Neill J.) dated the 28th November, 2002, the applicant was granted leave to apply by way of judicial review for an order of certiorari in respect of the respondent's decision that he be handcuffed during his temporary release.

The matter was heard by the High Court ( Ó Caoimh ó caoimh J.) on the 3rd November, 2003.

Cur. adv. vult.

Ó Caoimh ó caoimh J.

1st December, 2003

By order of this court (O'Neill J.) made on the 28th November, 2002, the applicant was given leave to apply for an order of certiorari by way of an application for judicial review in respect of the respondent's decision that the applicant be handcuffed during his temporary release on the ground that the condition vitiates the decision as flying in the face of reason and common sense.

While the release of a prisoner does not suggest that he or she be handcuffed at the time, it was not suggested by or on behalf of the applicant that such was impermissible where a prisoner is released in circumstances of temporary release.

The applicant has sworn a short affidavit in which he deposes to having applied for temporary release on the 26th October, 2002, in order to visit his sick elderly mother at a nursing home at Bray in County Wicklow. The grant of temporary release was approved on the 29th October, 2002, by the respondent who imposed a condition that the applicant be handcuffed during his release and that the release remain on hold until such time as there was sufficient staff at Wheatfield.

A statement of opposition has been filed on behalf of the respondent in which it is pleaded that the respondent acted within jurisdiction in making the impugned decision. It is also pleaded that there is no evidence that the respondent acted unreasonably or in a capricious, arbitrary or unjust manner.

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