Kelly -v- Director of the Equality Tribunal, [2008] IEHC 112 (2008)

Docket Number:2005 1219 P
Party Name:Kelly, Director of the Equality Tribunal
Judge:Gilligan J.





JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Gilligan delivered on the 11th day of April, 2008

  1. The plaintiff in these proceedings contends that the Equality Tribunal is in breach of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom 1950, pursuant to s. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 on the grounds of unreasonable delay in determining his discrimination claim under the Equal Status Act 2000, and that consequently his claim was not determined within a reasonable time, as required by Article 6.1 of the Convention. The plaintiff claims an award of damages to the amount of 100,000.

  2. The background circumstances are that the plaintiff is an Irish citizen and a qualified teacher. He represents himself in these proceedings.

  3. In 2002, the plaintiff applied for a place in University College Dublin (UCD) on the Masters and Social Science (Social Work) Degree course which is a two year post graduate course that in addition to the Masters degree leads to a professional qualification in social work in the Republic of Ireland. The plaintiff attended for interview at University College Dublin in February, 2002 and was aware that there were fifty places available on the course and that there were approximately one hundred applicants, almost all of whom were female.

  4. By letter dated the 15th day of March, 2002, from the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at (UCD), the plaintiff was advised of the outcome to his interview in the following terms:-

    "Dear PatrickWe are sorry to tell you that we are unable to offer you a place this year on the Master of Social Science (Social Work)/Higher Diploma in Applied Social Studies, for the session 2002 - 2004.

    As you already know there was very keen competition for the limited number of places. However, we are pleased to inform you that your name has been placed on a waiting list and that you will be considered for any vacancy that may occur. Please let us have a telephone number where you can be contacted over the next six months.

    We thank you for having come for interview. Yours sincerely"

  5. The plaintiff then became aware that Trinity College Dublin (TCD) were going to operate an equivalent course and the plaintiff applied for entry to this course towards the end of March, 2002, and was granted an interview, and in his own words "breezed through it", and was offered a place on this course in April, 2002, which he accepted. The plaintiff says there is no distinction between the two courses and that therefore, they are identical. The plaintiff found it interesting that UCD had fifty places on offer on their course, whereas TCD had only seventeen, and yet he was admitted to the Trinity College course. He says the assessment was graded and he received an A plus in each section of the Trinity College assessment for their course. He was, he says, one of the top people selected for their course and rejected from being one of fifty from the UCD course. He says he felt quite aggrieved about that and it seemed to confirm that something was not quite right at UCD.

  6. Having been admitted to the TCD course, the plaintiff then made a complaint to the Equality Tribunal on April 29th, 2002, that he had been discriminated against by UCD.

  7. The plaintiff refers to s. 25(1) of the Equal Status Act 2000 to the effect that the Director of the Equality Tribunal shall investigate complaints referred to him or her under s. 21 of the Equal Status Act 2000, and that at the conclusion of an investigation pursuant to s. 25(1) and s. 25(4) of the Equal Status Act 2000, the Director shall make a decision on the complaint. Further the plaintiff refers to s. 75(2) and s. 75(3) of the Employment Equality Act 1998 to the effect that the Director may delegate any function conferred on the Director to an Equality Officer.

  8. Subsequently, by way of a letter as dated the 19th day of August, 2002, from UCD, the plaintiff was advised to the effect that he was being offered a place on the Masters of Social Science (Social Work) - Higher Diploma in Applied Social Studies for the session which he had applied for, namely September 2002 - 2004. He was advised that the offer was provisional as his application had to be processed by the Faculty of Arts, and he was asked to confirm as soon as was possible but not later than the 28th of August, that he was accepting the place. The plaintiff did not accept the place as offered to him by UCD, embarked on the course in September, 2002 at TCD and continued with his complaint against UCD with the Equality Tribunal, against a background where he himself says there is no distinction between the courses, and that they are identical.

  9. The handling of the plaintiff's complaint proceeded along reasonable lines with correspondence passing back and forth between the plaintiff, the Equality Tribunal and UCD.

  10. In December, 2002 the plaintiff took a view that he had been victimised by TCD as a result of making the complaint concerning UCD and he, accordingly, made the first of three complaints against Trinity College on the basis of victimisation. The plaintiff, in general terms, took a view that he was victimised by the authorities in TCD, because of the fact of having made a complaint against UCD. The plaintiff takes the view that his difficulties at TCD were due to the delay by the defendants in dealing with his complaint, and due to the actions of UCD. The plaintiff brought three complaints of victimisation to the Equality Tribunal against TCD, all of which were heard together in June, 2005, and none of the complaints were upheld. From this decision of the Equality Tribunal the plaintiff appealed to the Circuit Court and following a hearing in November, 2004 the appeal was dismissed.

  11. The plaintiff left TCD in June 2003, and started a course in England in September, 2003 which was a one year course leading to qualification as a secondary school teacher in England. The plaintiff successfully completed this course in the summer of 2004. Between the summer of 2003 and the 20th of March, 2005, the plaintiff did not attempt to advance in any way his complaint against UCD before the defendant.

  12. Subsequent to the 20th of March, 2005, it appears that there was a barrage of correspondence with the plaintiff raising the issue of delay, the defendants apologising for the delay and there was a legal issue as to the correct format for the proceedings and it was necessary to take senior counsels opinion.

  13. There was a further difficulty in that in the Spring of 2005, the plaintiff complained about the solicitor, advising the Equality Tribunal, to the Law Society on a number of grounds as set out in letters from the plaintiff to the Equality Tribunals solicitor as dated respectively the 18th day of March, 2005, and the 20th day of March, 2005. None of these complaints in respect of the solicitor were upheld at the early prima facie stage of the disciplinary process within the Law Society, and from this decision the plaintiff did not appeal.

  14. Further, an Officer appointed within the Equality Tribunal, Mr. Hurley, was objected to by the applicant because of his involvement with the solicitor to the Equality Tribunal who had been complained to the Law Society by the plaintiff. The plaintiff in October, 2005 requested Mr. Hurley to relinquish the functions delegated to him in respect of the plaintiff's case, with the result that he took the view that he had no alternative but to stand aside. The Director of the Equality Tribunal then took the decision that an external Equality Officer should be appointed which resulted in the appointment of Mr. Hugh O'Neill who dealt with the case and handed down a written decision on the 2nd day of November, 2006.

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