Georgopoulus v Beaumont Hospital Board

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
JudgeHamilton C.J
Judgment Date01 January 1998
Neutral Citation1998 WJSC-SC 1969
Docket Number[1991 No. 13252P and S.C. No. 250 of 1993]
Date01 January 1998
GEORGOPOULUS v. BEAUMONT HOSPITAL BOARD

BETWEEN:

CHRISTOS GEORGOPOULUS
Plaintiff/Appellant

and

BEAUMONT HOSPITAL BOARD
Defendants/Respondents

1998 WJSC-SC 1969

HAMILTON C.J.

O'FLAHERTY J.

BARRINGTON J.

250/63

THE SUPREME COURT

Synopsis:

Judicial Review

Fair Procedures; decision to terminate appellant's employment by Board; requirements of natural and constitutional justice; whether correct standard of proof applied; whether failure to afford opportunity of plea in mitigation after decision on facts amounted to breach of fair procedures; whether availability of legal assessor to give advice in the absence of appellant was breach of same. Held: Appeal dismissed; balance of probabilities appropriate standard; degree of probability required is proportionate to the nature and gravity of the issue; rules of natural justice do not require a plea in mitigation subsequent to findings of guilt in each case; advice on matter of law where tribunal engaged in determining a question of fact is not in breach of requirements. Supreme Court: Hamilton CJ., O'Flaherty J., Barrington J. 04/ 06/1997 - [1998] 3 IR 142

Georgopoulus v. Beaumount Hospital Board

Citations:

HEALTH (CORPORATE BODIES) ACT 1961

BOYLE, STATE V GENERAL MEDICAL SERVICES (PAYMENT) BOARD 1981 ILRM 14

GLOVER V BLN LTD 1973 IR 388

REDGE V HOME SECRETARY EX PARTE KHAWAJA 1984 AC 74

WADE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW 6ED 341

KILLINEY & BALLYBRACK LTD V MIN FOR LOCAL GOVT 1978 112 ILTR 9

POLYMARK LTD, STATE V ITGWU 1987 ILRM 357

1

Judgment delivered on the 4th day of June 1997by Hamilton C.J . [NEM DISS]

2

This is an appeal brought by Christos Georgopoulus, a medical doctor (hereinafter referred to as the Appellant), who had been employed as a Neurosurgical Registrar by the Defendants, Beaumont Hospital Board, a statutory body which pursuant to the Health Corporate Bodies) Act, 1961 was charged with the administration of Beaumont Hospital in the City of Dublin (hereinafter referred to as the Board) against the judgment of the High Court, Murphy J., delivered on the 9th day of July, 1993 and the order made in pursuance thereof of the same date whereby the Appellant's claim in these proceedings was dismissed.

3

The Appellant had been appointed by the Board to the post of Registrar in neurosurgery in Beaumont Hospital for the period from 1st October 1989 until the 30th day of June 1990 pursuant to the terms and conditions set forth in a letter from the Board dated the 10th day of October, 1989.

4

By letter dated the 28th day of June, 1990 the Appellant's appointment in that capacity was renewed and extended for a further period of twelve months with effect from the 1st July, 1990.

5

By letter dated the 28th day of June, 1991 the Board terminated the Appellant's appointment as Registrar in Neurosurgery.

6

The Board's decision to terminate the Appellant's such appointment was made after an inquiry held on the 24th, 25th and 27th June, 1991 into complaints made against him.

7

In the proceedings instituted by him, the Appellant claimed that in purporting to dismiss him from his said position, the Board acted ultra vires and violated requirements of natural and constitutionaljustice.

8

The learned trial judge dismissed the Appellant's claim in that regard and from that decision, the Appellant appeals to this Court.

The Facts
9

The facts, relevant to the issues in these proceedings, are set forth in the judgment of the learned trial judge and may be summarised asfollows:-

10

1. The Appellant was appointed by the Board as Registrar in Neurosurgery in Beaumont Hospital by letter dated 10th October, 1989 for the period from the 1st October 1989 to the 30th June 1990 for a further period of twelve months with effect from the 1st July, 1990.

11

2. On or about the month of March, 1991 the Board purported to carry out an investigation into certain complaints made against the Appellant and by letter dated the 26th day of march 1991 purported to terminate the Appellant's employment by the Board.

12

3. The specific grounds for the Board's decision were stated tobe:-

13

a "A. That the Board found that the Plaintiff was unavailable to medical and nursing staff on numerous occasions when on duty, that the performance of his duties was unsatisfactory on occasions and that he thereby placed the management and care of the patients atrisk.

14

b B. That the Board found that on numerous occasions the Plaintiff was uncooperative with the medical, paramedical and nursing staff with whom good team work was necessary for the care and treatment of patients."

15

4. The Appellant was given no opportunity by the Board to deal with these complaints.

16

5. The Appellant immediately commenced proceedings in the High Court against the Respondents (Record No. 1991 4914P) seeking a declaration that the said dismissal was in breach of natural and constitutional justice and in breach of contract.

17

6. In these proceedings, the Appellant by way of interlocutory relief sought an injunction to restrain the Board from proceeding with the said purported dismissal.

18

7. On the 15th day of May, 1991 the parties to the said proceedings reached a without prejudice settlement of the said proceedings, which said settlement provided as follows:-

"Since the hearing of the Plaintiffs" application for an interlocutory injunction both parties to this action have had an opportunity to consider their respective positions.

It is clear that if Beaumont Hospital Board was required to deal afresh with the complaints made against the Plaintiff pursuant to an Order of the High Court, or the Supreme Court on appeal therefrom, it would have to do so by 30th June 1991.

Both parties accept that it would be impossible for them to prosecute to conclusion the hearing of this action and any appeal therefrom within such a time-scale.

Mindful of the foregoing the parties have agreed that, without prejudice to the matters in issue in this action, that Beaumont Hospital Board will consider afresh the complaints which have been made against Dr. Georgopoulus.

The new hearing will commence before Beaumont Hospital Board on a mutually agreed date and Dr. Georgopoulus may be represented by Counsel and Solicitor if he wishes. Evidence will be given viva voce.

To facilitate such a hearing Beaumont Hospital Board will, immediately prior to it, vacate its decision of 27 March 1991 but without prejudice to the Board's position to date and the issues to be determined in this action as to the correctness of the saiddecision.

This action may therefore, by agreement, be adjourned generally with liberty to either party to re-enter it. Costs to bereserved."

19

8. In pursuance of the said agreement and, obviously, with the consent of the Appellant, the Board vacated its decision of the 27th March 1991 to terminate the employment of the Appellant and on the 22nd day of June, 1991, the 24th day of June 1991 and the 27th day of June 1991, having engaged the services of Mr. Justice O'Malley, former President of theCircuit Court as legal assessor, conducted a hearing of the complaints made to it in respect of the conduct of the Appellant.

20

9. Subsequently to the said hearing, the Chairman of the Board wrote to the Appellant on the 28th day of June 1991 stating (interalia):-

"Having regard to the complaints made and considered at the meeting, the evidence established to the Board's satisfaction that you failed to perform your contractual duties as registrar in neurosurgery to a satisfactory standard, thereby warranting your dismissal from that post with effect from the 28th June 1991. This decision is taken in the best interest of the hospital and its patients.

The Board is satisfied that the evidence established that your were on occasions unavailable to medical and nursing staff when on duty and that the performance of your duties was unsatisfactory thereby placing the management and care of the patients at risk."

21

10. On the 30th day of August, 1991 the Appellant caused to be issued a plenary summons in which he claimed:-

22

a "(a) a declaration that the purported dismissal of the Plaintiff by the Defendant on or about the 27th day of June 1991 is invalid and in breach of the Plaintiff's constitutionalrights;

23

(b) a declaration that the purported dismissal of the Plaintiff aforesaid is in breach of the terms of the Plaintiff's contract of employment with the Defendant;

24

(c) a declaration that the Board in purporting to dismiss the Plaintiff acted ultra vires and violated the requirements of natural and constitutional justice;

25

(d) a declaration that the Plaintiff was wrongfully dismissed from his position as neurosurgical registrar as aforesaid;

26

(e) damages for wrongful dismissal and breach of constitutionalrights."

27

11. It is clear from the Statement of Claim delivered herein on behalf of the Appellant and the judgment of the learned trial judge that the decision taken by the Board was challenged on the followinggrounds:-

28

(1) That the legal assessor gave or was available to give legal advice to the Board in the absence of the Plaintiff or his representatives and without such advice being disclosed to them.

29

(2) That the Board did not indicate or indicate with sufficient position the allegations against the Plaintiff which they upheld.

30

(3) That the Plaintiff's legal advisers were not given an opportunity to make submissions analogous to a peal in mitigation subsequent to the decision of the Board.

31

(4) That the Board in reaching its decision should have but did not apply the standard of proof as required in a criminal charge, that is to say, beyond reasonable doubt.

Judgment of the High Court
32

The learned trial judge held in regard to the aforesaid alleged breaches of fair procedures that:-

33

(i) it was inconceivable that a tribunal having obtained legal advice from a legal...

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