DPP v Edgeworth

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice Hardiman
Judgment Date29 March 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] IESC 31
Docket Number[S.C. No. 154 of 2000]
CourtSupreme Court
Date29 March 2001

[2001] IESC 31

THE SUPREME COURT

Keane C.J.

Denham, J.

Murphy J.

Murray J.

Hardiman J.

154/00
DPP v. EDGEWORTH
IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL PURSUANT TO SECTION 34 OF THE CRIMINALPROCEDURE 1967 and IN THE MATTER OF A REFERENCE OF A QUESTION OF LAW TOTHE SUPREME COURT FOR DETERMINATION

Between:

THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
Prosecutor/Appellant

and

JAMES EDGEWORTH
Defendant/Respondent

Citations:

MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1977 S15

MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1977 S3

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1967 S34

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1967 S34(2)

MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1977 S26

COURTS OF JUSTICE ACT 1924 S88

MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1977 S26(2)

MISUSE OPF DRUGS ACT 1984 S13

CONSTITUTION ART 40.5

DPP V DUNNE 1994 2 IR 537

MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1977 S26(1)(a)

MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1977 S26(1)(b)

SIMPLE IMPORTS LTD V REVENUE COMMISSIONERS 2000 2 IR 243

Synopsis:

Criminal Law

Criminal; validity of search warrant; whether search warrant issued by Peace Commissioner, under which evidence had been obtained in furtherance of prosecution of defendant, invalidated by failure to specify that such issuing officer had held this position for County of Dublin; whether such omission is a breach of any condition laid down by law for issue of such warrants; whether warrant invalidated by fact that it had been entitled "The District Court"; whether such misdescription had breached any condition or criterion imposed by legislature or had been simply an error; s.26, Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977; Art. 40.5 of the Constitution.

Held: Neither the omission nor the misdescription invalidated warrant.

DPP v. Edgeworth - Supreme Court: Keane C.J., Denham J., Murphy J., Murray J., Hardiman J. - 29/03/2001 - [2001] 2 IR 131

The matter had been referred to the Supreme Court for determination. The trial judge had held that the search warrant obtained by Gardaí to search the premises of the defendant was invalid and as a result a large amount of evidence was excluded at the original trial. In the Supreme Court, Hardiman J held that despite a misdescription the warrant could not be said to be defective and the warrant was valid. The case stated was so answered.

1

Mr. Justice Hardimandelivered the 23rd day of March, 2001.

Background.
2

On the 23rd and 24th days of February, 1998 the Defendant herein, Mr. Edgeworth, was tried before his Honour Judge Matthews in the Dublin Circuit Court on charges alleging the breach of Section 15 and Section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977as amended.

3

After the jury had been empanelled, a preliminary point was argued in relation to the validity of a search warrant under which theGardaí had searched certain premises. On this point being resolved in favour of the Defendant, with the consequence that a considerable body of evidence fell to be excluded, the Defendant was found not guilty by direction of the learned trial judge on bothcounts.

4

The Director has referred to this Court, pursuant to Section 34 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967, the point of law which, he says, led to this directed verdict.

5

Pursuant to Section 34(2) of the 1967 Act, the statement of the question of law to be referred to this Court has been settled by the Director of Public Prosecutions after a consultation with the learned trial judge. It is as follows:-

"Whether the learned trial judge was correct in law in holding that notwithstanding evidence of the appointment of the Commissioner and due issue of the warrant, it was bad in law and void and the entry unlawful because:"

(a) It failed to assert that the Peace Commissioner who signed it was a Peace Commissioner for the County of Dublin and

(b) It was headed "The District Court".

6

It may be noted that this was not the only ground argued at the trial against the validity of the warrant. The first ground related to the proposition that the Peace Commissioner had not formed any view on the grounds put forward to support the issue of the warrant, but merely accepted that the Garda making the application was sincere in his view of the said grounds. The Peace Commissioner gave evidence thatGardaí called to her looking for such warrants "very,very often" and that she had never refused to issue a warrant "because I always asked the one question about theinformation". This one question appeared to be as to whether the information on which the application was based was confidential because "........usually when they come to me they all say that to me to sign, like, on confidentialinformation". In this particular case "I asked him was it confidential information and he said yes, and he waspositive". However, although there is no absolutely express statement of theground on which the preliminary issue was decided in favour of the Defendant, it seems likely from the contents of pages 30 and 31 of the transcript that the ground was substantially that identified by the Director and set out above.

The Warrant.
7

The warrant in this case is dated the 11th November, 1996 and is signed by Maureen Smyth. Under her signature the words "Judge of the District Court" have been crossed out and the words "Peace Commissioner" written below the deleted words, in capital letters. The warrant itself is in common form and is headed with the official emblem of the Harp with "AnChúirt Duiche" on one side and "The DistrictCourt" on the other. Underneath that is written " Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, Section 26" and in capital letters "SearchWarrant Dublin Metropolitan District".

8

At the trial, evidence was given before the learned trial judge by both Garda Galvin who applied for the warrant and Mrs. Smyth who issued it. It is clear from this evidence that the application was made to Mrs. Smyth in her capacity as a Peace Commissioner for the County Borough of Dublin and the County of Dublin and the countries immediately adjoining that county. She was so appointed on the 5th March 1981 by Mr. Jim Mitchell, the then Ministerfor Justice. She produced her warrant of appointment to the learned trial judge.

Grounds of challenge.
9

The grounds of challenge in this matter are limited to the two mentioned above viz, whether the warrant is invalidated by the failure to specify that the Peace Commissioner was a Peace Commissioner for the County of Dublin, and by the fact that the warrant was entitled "TheDistrict Court".

10

Provision for the appointment of Peace Commissioners was made by Section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. This provided that:-

"The Minister for Home Affairs may from time to time by warrant under his hand appoint and remove such and so many fit and proper persons as he shall think expedient in each county to be called ....... Peace Commissioners and to perform and exercise within such county and (if so expressed in his warrant of appointment) within the counties immediately adjoining such county the duties and powers of Peace Commissioners under this Act".

11

Section 26 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977provided that:-

"(1) If a Justice of the District Court or a Peace Commissioner is satisfied by information on oath of a member of the Garda Síochána that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that....... such Justice or Commissioner may issue a search warrant mentioned in...

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