J.U.O. (Nigeria) v The International Protection Appeals Tribunal

JudgeMr. Justice Richard Humphreys
Judgment Date04 December 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IEHC 710
Docket Number[2018 No. 270 J.R.]
CourtHigh Court
Date04 December 2018

[2018] IEHC 710



Humphreys J.

[2018 No. 270 J.R.]




Asylum & Immigration – Deportation – Refusal of application for international and subsidiary protection – Judicial review

Facts: The applicant was a Nigerian national who claimed to have been the victim of sexual and physical abuse. Her claims for international and subsidiary protection were refused on the basis of credibility, this refusal being upheld on appeal to the IPAT. She now sought judicial review of the IPAT’s decision.

Held, that the application would be dismissed. The IPAT had not failed to consider of a medico-legal report and had made findings justified by the facts before it.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Richard Humphreys delivered on the 4th day of December, 2018

The applicant was born in Nigeria in 1981. She claims to have been physically and sexually abused there, in particular by her uncle, and claims to have been the subject of an attempted forced marriage to a Mr. E., including a claim of being drugged and raped. She made a failed application for a U.K. visa in 2012. This required her to furnish her fingerprints, although she initially denied having had any involvement in that application.


She claims she got Mr. E. to pay for her travel to Ireland on the premise that she was coming to here to buy a wedding dress. She applied for international protection on 23rd December, 2015. On 23rd August, 2016, she was informed by the Refugee Applications Commissioner that her application for asylum was to be refused. On 12th September, 2016 she appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. On 16th March, 2017 she applied for subsidiary protection. On 10th October, 2017 she was informed that that had been rejected by the IPO. She appealed the subsidiary protection refusal to the IPAT on 24th October, 2017.


She claims that after arriving in Ireland she telephoned Mr. E. and said she would not be returning. She said Mr. E. said that he would kill her mother and brother, and says that her mother stated that Mr. E. tied her up, threatened her and beat her. She claims to have had a number of same-sex relationships in Nigeria and Ireland.


The tribunal, in a decision dated 14th March, 2018, rejected the credibility of her account and dismissed the appeals. I granted leave on 16th April, 2018. A statement of opposition was delivered on 22nd June, 2018. The applicant's submissions were delivered dated 12th November, 2018 and respondents' submissions dated 27th November, 2018. At the hearing I received further helpful submissions from Mr. Eamonn Dornan B.L. for the applicant and from Ms. Sarah K.M. Cooney B.L. for the respondents.

Allegation that the tribunal failed to give proper probative weight to medico-legal reports

While Mr. Dornan launched a spirited attack on the decision, it might be helpful if we begin with a reality check and remind ourselves for a moment of the reasons the tribunal had for thinking that the applicant's account was not credible.

(i). She gave inconsistent evidence initially regarding the age of the woman she had an alleged fourteen-year relationship with in Nigeria.

(ii). The lack of detail in that account.

(iii). Further inconsistencies in the evidence about that relationship at the tribunal hearing.

(iv). A lack of detail in the s. 35 interview about a relationship with a woman called Mary with whom the applicant allegedly had a ten-month relationship with in Ireland.

(v). A vague and non-specific account at the appeal hearing in relation to that issue.

(vi). Inconsistency in the detail about when she made contact with the alleged woman called Mary and where this contact took place.

(vii). An unreasonable lack of detail as to where the applicant lived during 2015.

(viii). A lack of detail in the s. 35 interview regarding another woman named Mary Anne, with whom the applicant claimed to be in a relationship.

(ix). A vague and unspecific account of these matters at the appeal hearing.

(x). Failure to mention the alleged abuse by Mr. E. at an earlier stage of the protection process.

(xi). Failure to give a reason why she had not done so.

(xii). Inconsistency about when she was supposed to be getting married to Mr. E.

(xiii). Inconsistency in relation to the number of wives Mr. E. was supposed to already have.

(xiv). Failure of the applicant to offer a reasonable explanation for this inconsistency.

(xv). Denial of having made a failed application for a U.K. visa in 2012 despite the fact that it involved her giving her fingerprints.

(xvi). Giving evidence that was unreasonably inconsistent, evasive and unforthcoming in relation to that issue.

(xvii). Failure to mention the fact that her uncle allegedly stabbed her in the abdomen until the s. 11 interview.


Many of these findings are unchallenged in the present proceedings. Apart from the generalised issue of psychological health, almost all of the above matters are independent of the medical reports as such. Where the tribunal member comes to consider the issue of abuse by the uncle, which is the part of the story most supported by the medical evidence, he expressly discussed the medical reports, but express narrative analysis is not generally necessary.


Crucially, the tribunal member expressly states that he has borne the medical reports in mind in all the findings made, saying ‘ in arriving at the various credibility factors in this decision the Tribunal has at all times taken account of the medico-legal, medical and counselling reports submitted on behalf of the applicant’ (para. 4.25). That is a vital statement for present purposes and must be accepted by the court unless the applicant discharges the onus of displacing it as untrue, which has not been done here: see by analogy G.K. v. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2002] 2 I.R. 418 [2002] 1 I.L.R.M. 401 per Hardiman J. The tribunal accepted the findings in the medico-legal reports and accepted that the reports were supportive of aspects of the applicant's claim (para. 4.30). However, the tribunal member went on to say ‘however the fact that the appellant has experienced the instances of physical and psychological harm described therein does not necessarily mean that the instances of harm were incurred in the manner alleged by the appellant.’ That logic is impregnable.


Whether a report says that injuries or harm are consistent, or even as here highly consistent, with the account given, that does not mean that the harm was caused by the matters complained of in the account. It is a piece of evidence to be put in the balance with all other elements. It is not appropriate, or indeed lawful, for the tribunal to compartmentalise an assessment of the evidence by artificially divorcing the evidential ramifications of a medical report from all other evidence: see R.S. v. International Protection...

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