Corcoran v Minister for Social Welfare

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr. Justice Murphy
Judgment Date01 January 1992
Neutral Citation1991 WJSC-HC 1761
Date01 January 1992
Docket Number[1990 No. 224 J.R.],No. 224 J.R./1990

1991 WJSC-HC 1761

THE HIGH COURT

No. 224 J.R./1990
CORCORAN v. MIN SOCIAL WELFARE
MICHAEL CORCORAN
APPLICANT
v.
THE MINISTER FOR SOCIAL WELFARE, IRELAND AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
RESPONDENTS

Citations:

SOCIAL WELFARE (CONSOLIDATION) ACT 1981 S136(3)

KEEGAN, STATE V STARDUST COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL 1986 IR 642

HAUGHEY, IN RE 1971 IR 217

HEALY, STATE V DONOGHUE 1976 IR 325

FLANAGAN V UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN 1989 ILRM 469

CONSTITUTION ART 38

SOCIAL WELFARE (CONSOLIDATION) ACT 1981 S296

SOCIAL WELFARE (CONSOLIDATION) ACT 1981 S138

SOCIAL WELFARE (ASSISTANCE DECISIONS & APPEALS) REGS 1953 SI 9/1953

Synopsis:

NATURAL JUSTICE

Fair procedures

Tribunal - Hearing - Claimant - Representation - Entitlement - Unemployment assistance - Discontinuance - Hearings before deciding officer and appeals officer - Whether claimant entitled to be represented professionally - (1990/224 JR - Murphy - 7/6/91)

|Corcoran v. Minister for the Environment|

SOCIAL SERVICES

Welfare

Benefits - Entitlement - Unemployment assistance - Discontinuance - Qualification certificate - Conditions - Breach - Determination - Procedure - Claimant - Representation - Whether claimant entitled to be represented professionally - Grounds of discontinuance - Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1981, s. 138 - (1990/224 JR - Murphy J. - 7/6/91) - [1991] 2 I.R. 175 - [1992] ILRM 133

|Corcoran v Minister for Social Welfare|

TRIBUNAL

Enquiry

Claimant - Representation - Entitlement - Unemployment assistance - Discontinuance - Hearings before deciding officer and appeals officer - Whether claimant entitled to be represented professionally - (1990/224 JR - Murphy J. - 7/6/91) - [1991] 2 I.R. 175

|Corcoran v. Minister for Social Welfare|

1

Judgment of Mr. Justice Murphy delivered the 7th day of June 1991

2

The Applicant, Michael Corcoran, is a member of the travelling community and resides at Cloonlyon, Ballygar in the County of Roscommon. He was employed from the 1st day of April 1985 to the 15th of April 1987 with Murray Timber Products in Ballygar, County Galway. On the termination of his employment he was paid unemployment benefit for a period of time and subsequently claimed and was paid unemployment assistance up to the 8th of February 1989. The Applicant married on the 6th day of May 1989 and his first child was born on the 1st day of May 1990.

3

It appears that the right of the Applicant to receive unemployment assistance was investigated by Gerald O'Donnell, a Social Welfare Officer in November 1988 who reported on the circumstances of the case on the 29th of that month. The issue as to whether the Applicant was entitled to unemployment assistance was heard by a Deciding Officer under Section 296 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1981on the 30th of January 1989 who was not satisfied that the Applicant was entitled to a qualification Certificate in accordance with Section 138 of the 1981 Act. That decision was appealed to an Appeals Officer by whom the appeal was heard on the 27th day of June 1989 and whose decision was given on the 14th of September 1989. That appeal was in turn appealed to or, more correctly, reviewed by another Appeals Officer in a hearing conducted on the 26th of February 1990 and whose decision refusing the appeal was communicated to the Applicant's Solicitor on the 10th of April 1990.

4

The Applicant seeks Orders of Certiorari by way of Judicial Review quashing each and every of the three Orders aforesaid.

5

The essential ground on which the Applicant seeks to have the Order of the Deciding Officer quashed is that there were no substantial grounds for the decision refusing and/or withdrawing from the Applicant his qualification Certificate pursuant to the provisions of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1981.

6

The issue before the Deciding Officer was whether the income of the Applicant exceeded the statutory limit computed in accordance with the provisions of Section 136 (3) of the 1981 Act. It appears that the statutory figure for the purposes of the present case would have been £4,368. It seems that the only evidence available to the Deciding Officer which cast doubt on the Applicant's claim was the fact that the Applicant was the owner of a Nissan van which he had acquired in 1988. That van itself had been acquired in March 1988 by trading in a van which the Applicant had purchased in 1987 for a sum of £7,600 but had since been involved in a collision. The new van was acquired by trading in the damaged van and paying a sum of £2,300. There was some evidence at that time that the £2,300 had been obtained by the Applicant by way of loan from members of his family. As to the original van the Applicant said that he acquired it for the sum of £7,600 out of moneys which he had saved during the course of his employment with Murray Timber Products. Undoubtedly importance was attached by all parties to the issue as to whether the original van could have been acquired by the Applicant out of his earnings from Murray Timber Products. In that connection there was a dispute between the parties as to the amount of these wages and to overtime earned by the Applicant in the course of that employment. There was no formal evidence from the former employers.

7

It seems to me that the Deciding Officer was entitled to have regard to the personal circumstances of the Applicant; the obvious demands on his very limited resources; the value of the vehicle which he owned; the cost of maintaining it and the purposes for which it might be used. If he drew, as it seems to me he did draw, the inference that the Applicant had a more substantial income or alternatively an undisclosed source of income which would result in the Applicant exceeding the maximum permitted statutory figure that such a decision could not be described as unreasonable less still as "plainly and unambiguously flying in the face of fundamental reason and commonsense" which is the criterion laid down by the Supreme Court in The State (Keegan) v. Stardust Compensation Tribunal 1986 I.R. 642 as the test by which decisions of Administrative Tribunals will be judged.

8

By Notice dated the 17th of July 1989 the Minister's Officials notified the Applicant that the appeal to the Appeals Officer would be heard on Tuesday the 27th of July of 1989 at 11.30 a.m. Importance is attached to the further information contained in that Notice in the following terms:-

"You may bring a representative with you to the hearing. The representative may be a member of your family or with the consent of the Appeals Officer any other person".

9

From the month of April 1989 at the latest Messrs. Claffey Gannon & Co., were acting as Solicitors on behalf of the Applicant and in that capacity communicating with the Department of Social Welfare in relation to their client's affairs....

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