Hanrahan -v- District Judge Fahy & anor, [2016] IEHC 266 (2016)

Docket Number:2015 241JR
Party Name:Hanrahan, District Judge Fahy & anor
 
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THE HIGH COURT Record No. 2015/241JR

BETWEEN/

EDWARD HANRAHAN APPLICANT –and –

DISTRICT JUDGE MARY FAHY &

THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS RESPONDENTS

JUDGMENT of Mr Justice Max Barrett delivered on 26thMay, 2016.

Part 1

Introduction

  1. Had Mr Hanrahan not scarpered when he did, all this would now be long behind him. On 21st December, 2009, he went before the District Court in Galway charged with three alleged burglaries. The prosecuting Garda inspector appears to have indicated to the District Judge that the DPP had directed that the matter be dealt with summarily. Certainly the District Judge accepted jurisdiction and Mr Hanrahan’s next appearance at the District Court was scheduled for 15th March, 2010.[1]

    [1] By way of background to the events of the 21st, the following extract from Professor Walsh’s learned text, Walsh on Criminal Procedure, (2002), 665-6, is of assistance:

    “Mode of trial is likely to be an issue when the accused appears before the District Court charged with an indictable offence. Where the offence charged is one which the court has jurisdiction to try summarily the judge must inform the defendant of his right to be tried by a jury. If the accused stands on his right to be tried by a jury the judge will remand him in custody or on bail to a future sitting of the court. This is likely to be followed by a whole series of remands until the accused is sent forward for trial….However, if the judge is satisfied that the person does not object to being tried summarily, and that the DPP does not object to summary trial he or she can proceed to try the case immediately or put it back for consideration at a later sitting of the court. Before the judge can take this decision he or she must hear the facts alleged in support of the charge and form the opinion that they constitute a minor offence fit to be tried summarily.”

  2. The hearings of 15th March, 2010, came and went without sight or sound of Mr Hanrahan in court. From that date onwards, he seems to have led an elusive existence. It is believed that he went first to England. However, he was back in Ireland from time to time. He was sighted by a Garda in Cork in June 2011. But on being hailed by the Garda, he jumped from his bike and ran away. In June 2012, he is believed to have been in a car accident in Louth. But by the time the Gardaí arrived he had quit the scene. In November 2014, his luck finally ran out. On the 29th of that month, he was spotted in a Donegal village and tried to skip across the Border, but was captured by a fleet-footed garda.

  3. By the time of this eventual arrest, Mr Hanrahan appears to have been living in Newry with his partner and their two (now three) children. Though he initially gave the Gardaí a false name, he was soon discovered in his lie and brought again before the District Court in Galway. This time, two of the three burglary charges that he originally faced were struck out. But the third charge remained. And this time, the prosecuting Garda indicated that the DPP had directed that Mr Hanrahan be tried on indictment. This has the result that Mr Hanrahan will be tried in the Circuit Court; and, if the charge against him is proven, he will be exposed to the rigorous sentencing powers available to that Court.

  4. Mr Hanrahan considers the DPP’s decision that he ought to be tried on indictmentis unfair, makes no sense, and is in breach of his rights to fairness and fair procedures. ‘How could it be’, he asks in effect, ‘that when faced with three charges I was fit to be tried summarily, but faced with one, trial on indictment is now deemed fitting?’ Mr Hanrahan comes to this Court asking for an array of orders that would in effect see his progress to trial in the Circuit Court halted, and a belated trial in the District Court take place in its stead.

  5. Specifically, Mr Hanrahan seeks: (i) an order of certiorari quashing his return for trial in the Circuit Court on the sole surviving charge against him;(ii) an order of certiorari quashing and expunging the record of the direction and/or consent for trial on indictment latterly communicated to the District Judge; (iii) an order of prohibition prohibiting the prosecution of Mr Hanrahan pending before the Circuit Court; and (iv) a declaration that any change of mind by the DPP as regards the mode or locus of Mr Hanrahan’s trial flies in the face of common-sense and was unreasonable or unlawful in circumstances where, by Mr Hanrahan’s account, two charges were withdrawn and where no reason for the change was indicated and/or communicated, all to Mr Hanrahan’s prejudice.

    Part 2

    A Mistake

  6. What explanation does the DPP offer for (a) being initially satisfied for Mr Hanrahan to be tried summarily on three counts of burglary, and (b) now considering that Mr Hanrahan ought to be tried on indictment for the sole surviving burglary charge that remains? It turns out that nothing falls to be explained in this regard as there has been no change of position on the part of the DPP. According to the statement of opposition:

    “It is accepted that [Mr Hanrahan]…is charged with an offence of burglary which was allegedly committed on the 25th September, 2009. Insofar as it is pleaded that the District Court Judge was informed in December 2009 that the offence was to be tried summarily, that information appears to have been provided in error. It was always the intention of the [DPP]…to try the offence in question on indictment and [the]…only direction that issued in this case was that the case proceed on indictment.

    [Back in November 2009, a] file was prepared for the office of the [DPP]….along with a file for the prosecution of [Mr Hanrahan’s]…co-accused. Directions issued in relation to the co-accused in April 2010 and in relation to the applicant...

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