Flanagan v University College Dublin

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr. Justice Barron
Judgment Date29 Sep 1988
Neutral Citation[1988] IEHC 1
Docket NumberNo. 159 JR/1988,[1988 No. 159 J.R.]

[1988] IEHC 1

THE HIGH COURT

No. 159 JR/1988
FLANAGAN v. UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN
Judicial Review

BETWEEN

LINDA FLANAGAN
APPLICANT

AND

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN
RESPONDENT

Citations:

GLYNN V KEELE UNIVERSITY 1971 2 AER 89

UNIVERSITY OF CEYLON V FERNANDEZ 1961 AER 631

SMULLEN, STATE V DUFFY 1980 ILRM 46

Synopsis:

UNIVERSITY

Discipline

Student - Examination - Result - Assessment - Plagiarism alleged - Domestic enquiry by committee of discipline into allegation - Fair procedures - ~See~ Tribunal, procedure - (1988/159 JR - Barron J. - 29/9/88) - [1988] I.R. 724 - [1989] ILRM 469

|Flanagan v. University College Dublin|

NATURAL JUSTICE

Fair procedures

Tribunal - University - Discipline committee - Domestic enquiry - Student's examination paper - Plagiarism alleged - Conduct of enquiry - Requirements of natural and constitutional justice - ~See~ Tribunal, procedure - (1988/159 JR - Barron J. - 29/9/88) - [1988] I.R. 724 - [1989] ILRM 469

|Flanagan v. University College Dublin|

TRIBUNAL

Procedure

Fairness - University - Student - Discipline - Essay alleged to be based on plagiarism - Domestic enquiry into allegation - Student sent down - The applicant obtained her primary degree in 1978 and was then employed as a social worker by a local authority - She entered University College Dublin in 1986 to study for a diploma in Applied Social Studies - She was required to pass four written examinations and to submit an essay on the subject of human behaviour - The applicant passed the four examinations with honours - On 12/9/87 the applicant's lecturer read the essay submitted by the applicant and formed the opinion that its contents were based, to a large extent, upon a tape

recording which had been played to the students in April, 1987 - The matter was discussed on 17/9 at an examiners" meeting and was then referred to the University's registrar - He wrote to the applicant on 28/9 and requested her to appear on 8/10 before a committee of discipline in connection with "an alleged breach of the examination regulations in Autumn 1987", and informed her that she might have her officer of residence and/or the president of the student's union present at that meeting - The applicant replied stating that she declined to attend the meeting and that she was unaware of any such alleged breach - On 2/10 the applicant was informed, for the first time, that it was alleged

that the case history in her essay on human behaviour had been copied from a tape recording which was available commercially; the applicant replied by letterd dated 5/10 denying the allegation - On the next day the registrar wrote and informed the applicant that the committee of discipline would meet on 8/10 to consider the matter, that she could be represented by the dean of women's studies and the president of the students" union and by nobody else; a copy of the essay and a transcript of the tape recording were enclosed in the letter - At the meeting of 8/10 there were present the three members of the committee of discipline, the registrar, the senior administrative officer of the registrar's office, the applicant and her two representatives so appointed - The registrar, who acted as prosecutor, read from the essay and expressed the view that the case was a clear one

No witnesses were called to give evidence - The applicant explained that the tape had been played and replayed in her lectures and that she had acknowledged the use of such tapes at the end of her essay - The applicant and her representatives retired but the registrar and his senior administrative officer remained with the members of the committee - When the applicant returned to the meeting she was informed that the matter would be sent to an independent expert for his assessment - The applicant agreed to that course but she asked for the allegations to be sent to her in writing, and that was done on 11/10 - On 19/10 the applicant wrote to the chairman of the committee setting out her

defence and enclosing documentation for transmission to the independent expert - The choice of that expert was delegated by the committee to the registrar who, having consulted three senior lecturers in the Department of Social Studies, appointed Professor Hannan (of the Economic and Social Research Institute) on their recommendation - On 9/11 the applicant was informed that the professor's report had been received, and she was requested to attend a meeting of the committee of discipline on 16/11 - By

letter dated 11/11 the registrar sent the applicant a copy of the "report of Professor Damien Hannan"on your case" - The copy report revealed that the professor had formed the opinion that the applicant's essay constituted a clear case of plagiarism - The committee of discipline met on 16/11 and refused to grant the applicant's request for an adjournment - On that occasion the committee acted solely on the professor's report, recommended that the applicant be sent down, that she be permitted to re-submit

her essay to the examiners in June, 1988, and that she be permitted to carry forward her other results - Those decisions were conveyed to the applicant formally in a letter dated 18/11, in which she was informed that she could use the library pending the submission of her new essay - The applicant applied in the High Court for an order of certiorari quashing the decisions of the committee of discipline - Held, in granting that relief, that the issue was not plagiarism but whether the procedures adopted by the committee of discipline accorded with natural and constitutional justice - Held that the appeal procedure stated in the handbook of the Department of Social Work and Applied Social

Studies was inapplicable once the allegation against the applicant was treated as a matter of discipline - Held that there had been a failure to inform the applicant of the exact charge being made against her, and a failure to afford her an adequate opportunity to prepare and present her case - Held that the refusal to allow the applicant to be represented by someone chosen by her inhibited the preparation and presentation of her case, and that the absence of evidence of a witness at the hearing excluded the possibility of cross-examination: ~The State (Smullen) v. Duffy~ (Finlay P. - 21/3/80); ~Glynn v. Keele University~ [1971] 2 All E.R. 89 and ~Ceylon v. Fernandez~ [1961]

All E.R. 631 considered - Held that the committee of discipline should not have delegated to the registrar the appointment of the independent expert, and that such appointment should not have been made without consulting the applicant - Held that the committee, by acting solely on the expert's report, had delegated their function improperly - Held that the registrar, in purporting to forward a copy of the report to the applicant, had omitted improperly a paragraph in which the professor had indicated that he thought the essay to be an aberration from the applicant's normal work and examination performance and had expressed the opinion that there should have been an attempt to deal with the matter firmly within the said department at a much earlier date - (1988/159 JR - Barron J. - 29/9/88) - 1988 I.R. 724

|Flanagan v. University College Dublin|

1

Judgment of Mr. Justice Barrondelivered the 29th day of September 1988.

2

The Applicant obtained her primary degree in 1978 and since then has been employed as a local authority social worker. She entered University College Dublin in the Autumn of 1986 to study for a diploma in Applied Social Studies. One of the courses which she attended was on human behaviour. For her diploma she was required to submit an essay on this subject in advance as well as sit four written papers. No problem arises in relation to these papers in each of which she received honour marks. These proceedings relate to the essay which she submitted.

3

The requirement for the essay was as follows:

"Human Behaviour Essay. Valerie Richardson

Outline and discuss one theory of human development and/or human behaviour. Select one case and illustrate how that theory may (or may not) have been applied in planning and carrying out yourintervention."

4

This essay was to have been submitted by 31st July 1987. There is a dispute as to whether or not it was so submitted, but even if it was not, no point arises on it in these proceedings. The Lecturer, Mrs. Richardson, read the essay on the 12th September 1987 and was immediately concerned because she regarded large parts of the essay as having been copied from a tape which had been played to the students in class in April 1987. She considered the essay to be a case of plagiarism and referred the matter for consideration to an Examiners"meeting. The essay was discussed at such a meeting on the 17th September 1987 when a decision was taken to refer the essay to Professor Pinker, the external Examiner. This Examiner heard the tape and read the essay on the 24th September 1987 in the presence of the Lecturer, Mrs. Richardson and the statutory Examiner, Dr. Carney. His view was that a breach of college regulations had taken place and that the matter should be referred to Professor Kelly, the Registrar, which was done. It is to be noted that at no stage in this history was the Applicant consulted or asked for an explanation of the plagiarism which was alleged againsther.

5

The disciplinary procedures were then invoked. TheRegistrar wrote to the Applicant by letter dated 28th September 1987 asfollows:

"Dear Miss Flanagan,

I must ask you to appear before a Committee of discipline in connection with an alleged breach of the examination regulations in Autumn1987.

The meeting will take place in the President's Committee Room Administration Building University College Dublin Belfield Dublin 4 on Thursday 8th October at 2.30 p.m.

You may if you wish have your officer of residence Miss Therese Meagher and/or the President of the Students" Union in attendance at this...

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