Diarmuid Creedon v A Judge of the District Court, A Judge of the Circuit Court, and DPP

JudgeMr Justice Max Barrett
Judgment Date12 July 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] IEHC 481
Docket Number[2019 No. 739 JR]
CourtHigh Court
Diarmuid Creedon
A Judge of the District Court, A Judge of the Circuit Court, and The Director of Public Prosecutions

[2021] IEHC 481

[2019 No. 739 JR]


JUDGMENT of Mr Justice Max Barrett delivered on 12 th July 2021 .


. Since 1924, the operation of the District Court in Ireland has been done by reference to districts (not areas). Every district is given a number. Macroom/Bantry is in District 18. Cork City is in District 19. In 1926, under the Court and Court Officers Act of that year, the Minister for Justice was empowered to create District Court areas within a district. Thereafter, every district, except Dublin, had several areas. In 1935, in State (Reilly) v. Circuit Court Judge of Midland Circuit and District Justice for Portlaoise [1936] I.R. 372, Hanna J., in the High Court, decided that in criminal matters criminal jurisdiction could only be exercised in particular areas (so a person had to be prosecuted in the area where they lived, were arrested, or the offence took place). In 2001, in O'Brien v. Judge O'Halloran [2001] 1 I.R. 556, at p.561, Geoghegan J., in the Supreme Court, stated that: Hanna J…was wrong…[T] he exercise of [District Court] jurisdiction has always been based on districts…not on areas. In so far as areas have been prescribed…it is for the purpose of the convenient regulation of the courts' business.” It follows from the foregoing that the concept of District Court areas is irrelevant to what this Court has to decide. This is a case about districts.


. Here, Mr Creedon was charged by summons with an offence under s.4(4)(a)(5) of the Road Traffic Act 2010. The offence was alleged to have been committed on 17 th July 2016 at a place in District 18. The summons was returnable to Macroom District Court, also in District 18, on 15 th February 2017 for mention only. On and from 15 th July 2017, the following events transpired:

15.02.2017. Matter mentioned in a District 18 court. Adjourned to a District 19 court with agreement of all. (It is a decidedly odd feature of this application that what is now being complained against was, historically, agreed to). Thereafter matter is adjourned to 07.07.2017, 08.09.2017, 06.11.2017, and 20.11.2017.

08.09.2017. Written submissions and oral submissions made on behalf of first named respondent and parties in a District 19 court on 08.09.2017.

01.01.2018. Proceedings adjourned to a District 18 court.

25.01.2018. Mr Creedon is convicted in a District 18 court.


. District Judge Kelleher, the first-named respondent, is permanently assigned to District 19. Pursuant to the Sixth Schedule to the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 (as amended by s.37 of the Courts and Court Offices Act 1995 and s.14 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008) he had temporarily been assigned to District 18. It follows that he was entitled to hear the case in District 18 courtrooms on 21 st June 2017 and 25 th January 2018.


. The within proceedings were commenced on 21 st October 2019. Among the reliefs sought, and the sole matter now before the court to decide, is whether or not to grant an order of certiorari quashing the District Judge's decision of 25 th January 2018 when Mr Creedon was convicted of an offence contrary to s.4(4)(a)(5) of the Road Traffic Act 2010.


. There is no doubt but that the District Judge had jurisdiction on 25 th January 2018 to convict and to pass sentence. The fact that he had this jurisdiction is not in issue. What Mr Creedon raises in this application is that the events of September 2017 require that the order of 25 th January 2018 to be quashed. In essence, Mr Creedon's complaint is that because certain aspects of his case were heard outside District 18, his conviction on 25 th January 2018 was made without jurisdiction and is void. But as will be seen, even if, for the sake of argument, one takes Mr Creedon's case at its absolute height and treats all that occurred in District 19, as what counsel for the respondents referred to as “ nullities” (if such they were), the undoubted (and unquestioned) jurisdiction that the judge enjoyed on 25 th January 2018 is not affected thereby.


. There is, unfortunately for Mr Creedon, a legal and logical ‘disconnect’ between the events of September 2017 and the order of January 2018 that has not been overcome by Mr Creedon, for the simple reason that it cannot in fact be overcome on the facts presenting. The order of 25 th January 2018 on its face and in its substance is in order, District Judge Kelleher had jurisdiction when he made the order of 25 th January 2018, and there is, with respect, nothing in Mr Creedon's submissions that undermines this fact.


. Turning to the statement of grounds, under the heading “ Grounds upon which Relief is Sought” one finds:

– “ 1. The District Judge acted in excess of jurisdiction in transferring the prosecution of the Applicant in proceedings bearing Case No 2016/168526 entitled in the matter of Director of Public Prosecutions (Garda Eoin Patrick Mullins) v. Diarmuid Creedon from District No. 18 to District No. 19 on the 21 st June 2017”.

Court Note: There is no relief sought in these proceedings against that transfer order, and a point, however sound, can only be ‘brought home’ in terms of obtaining relief if it is made by the right person in the right place at the right time. If Mr Creedon wished at the point in time when his case was transferred from District 18 to District 19 to seek relief against that transfer order he could have come to the High Court around that time and sought injunctive relief against the matter being heard in District 19. If Mr Creedon had, for the purposes of argument, then obtained that injunctive relief, the DPP would then simply have lawfully re-entered the matter in District 18 and matters would have taken their course thereafter. In other words, even if injunctive relief had been obtained in 2017, it would not have stopped the prosecution, though it would have meant that what did transpire in District 19 would not have transpired.

– “ 2. The District Judge acted in excess of jurisdiction in the exercise of his judicial powers in relation to the proceedings Case No. 2016/168526 in the matter of Director of Public Prosecutions (Garda Eoin Patrick Mullins) v. Diarmuid Creedon on the 30 th June 2017, 7 th July 2017, 8 th September 2017, 6 th November 2017, and the 20 th November 2017 in District No 19”

Court Note: There is no relief sought in these proceedings against any of those orders.

– “ 3. The District Judge acted in breach of section 79 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 in transferring or adjourning the transaction of Case No. 2016/168526 in the matter of Director of Public Prosecutions (Garda Eoin Patrick Mullins) v. Diarmuid Creedon to District No,19 and thereafter proceeded to hear the said case and acted judicially in relation thereto.”

Court Note: This point is treated with at greater length below.

– “ 4. The District Judge acted in breach of District Court Rules Order 13, Rule 1 in that he heard proceedings in a court area other than where the alleged offence was stated to have been committed or where the accused was arrested or resided.”

Court Note: The District Court Rules simply reflect statute. So, Mr Creedon's case such as it is has nothing at all to do with the Rules; it involves a more fundamental legal point.


. In passing, the court notes that another feature of this case is that there is no suggestion that there has been any breach of fair procedures. There is no suggestion that District Judge Kelleher conducted himself other than appropriately, entertaining all relevant submissions and reaching a decision in accordance with law. The only criticism is that some material was provided to him when he was sitting in District 19 – material which, the court notes, the learned District Judge at no point said that he was ignoring. There is just nothing in the authorities to suggest that the conviction of 25 th January 2018 should fall in such circumstances. It would be different, perhaps, if, leaving aside the jurisdictional issue for a moment, a hypothetical District Judge adjourned a case in or outside of his district and the accused made submissions through his counsel which, on the next adjourned date, the said hypothetical District Judge said that he was going to disregard. That would undoubtedly raise a fair procedures point, but there is no fair procedures point here and there is a significant ‘falling short’ in terms of identifying any fundamental deficiency arising in/on the facts in play.

Some Statutory Provisions of Interest and Some Related Case-Law

. Section 79 of the Act of 1924 provides as follows:

Provided that the jurisdictions by this Act vested in and transferred to the District Court shall be exercised by the Justices severally as follows:—

In criminal cases, by a Justice for the time being assigned to the District wherein the crime has been committed or the accused has been arrested or resides;


. Although none of ss.67 to 92 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 require the relevant judge referred to in s.79 to sit physically in any particular location, there is Supreme Court case-law to this effect. Thus, in Creavan v. Criminal Assets Bureau [2004] 4 I.R. 434, the third respondent, sitting in the Dublin Metropolitan District, issued warrants under s.55 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and s.14 of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996. The warrants related to premises located in a number of District Court districts. The applicants sought to have the warrants quashed. In relation to those issued under s.14 the applicants argued that a District Judge could not be assigned to more than one district at any one time or that, if s/he could be so assigned, the judge could not issue a search...

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