Kiberd v Mr. Justice Hamilton

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date20 March 1992
Docket Number[1992 No. 74 J.R.]
Date20 March 1992
Kiberd v. Mr. Justice Hamilton
Damien Kiberd and Brian Carey
Applicants
and
The Honourable Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton (Chairman and sole member of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry)
Respondent
[1992 No. 74 J.R.]

High Court

Tribunal of inquiry - Powers - Tribunal empowered to make "such orders as it considers necessary for the purposes of its functions" - Newspaper publishing articles allegedly based on material submitted in confidence to tribunal - Tribunal ordering news paper's employees to produce documents and answer questions - Whether tribunal empowered to make such order - Whether tribunal being hampered in its functions - Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921 (11 Geo. V, c. 7), s. 1 - Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act, 1979 (No. 3), s. 4.

Judicial review - Certiorari - Tribunal of inquiry - Tribunal empowered to make "such orders as it considers necessary for the purposes of its functions" - Order of tribunal - Whether opinion of tribunal that order was necessary supported by facts - Whether opinion of tribunal reasonable - Whether order of tribunal necessary - Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act, 1979 (No. 3), s. 4.

Section 1, sub-s. 1 of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, provides, inter alia, that such a tribunal shall have the same powers as the High Court, or a judge of the High Court, in respect of enforcing the attendance of witnesses, examining them on oath and compelling the production of documents, and further provides that "a summons signed by one or more members of the tribunal may be substituted for and shall be equivalent to any formal process capable of being issued in any action for enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of documents."

Section 1, sub-s. 2 (d) of the Act of 1921, as amended by s. 3 of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act, 1979, provides, inter alia, that a person who has been duly summoned as a witness and who "by act or omission, obstructs or hinders the tribunal in the performance of its functions," shall "be guilty of an offence."

Section 1, sub-s. 2 (f) of the Act of 1921, as amended, provides that if a person, duly summoned as a witness, does or omits to do any thing not previously referred to in s. 1, sub-s. 2, "and if such doing or omission would, if the tribunal had been the High Court, have been contempt of that court" then the person shall be guilty of an offence.

Section 4 of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act, 1979, provides as follows:—

"A tribunal may make such orders as it considers necessary for the purposes of its functions, and it shall have, in relation to their making, all such powers rights and privileges as are vested in the High Court or a judge of that Court in respect of the making of orders."

The respondent was the chairman and sole member of a tribunal of inquiry into the beef processing industry, established by the Oireachtas in May, 1991. The first applicant was the editor of a newspaper known as the Sunday Business Post. The second applicant was the author of two articles which appeared in the newspaper on the 9th February, 1992. The following day the respondent wrote to the applicants suggesting that the articles appeared to have been based on statements made to the tribunal by prospective witnesses who had not yet given evidence. The letter requested that the applicants detail the origin of the information in the articles and the person or persons from whom it had been obtained.

No response having been received, a further letter was sent on the 13th February, 1992, requesting that the applicants appear before the tribunal the following day, to assist it in its inquiries as to the source of the information and as to whether books of statements had been given to a person other than one on whom they had been served. The letter also warned that the tribunal was considering whether there had been an obstruction or hindrance of its workings, contrary to s. 1, sub-s. 2 (d) and sub-s. 2 (f) of the Act of 1921.

The applicants duly appeared before the tribunal but disputed the jurisdiction of the tribunal to make any order against them. On the 14th February, 1992, the respondent made an order directing that the applicants should appear before the tribunal on the 24th February, and should produce thereat the material on which the articles were based and answer questions as to the source of the material. The respondent stated that the order was being made pursuant to s. 4 of the Act of 1979, but the order itself did not disclose the jurisdiction under which it had been made.

The applicants subsequently obtained leave to apply by way of judicial review for an order of certiorari to quash the order of the respondent. The respondent contended, on affidavit, that there was a danger that the tribunal would be hindered in its workings if there was a perception that material submitted to it in confidence would be disclosed in the press before being dealt with by the tribunal. The respondent also submitted that he was empowered to make the disputed order by virtue of both s. 1, sub-s. 1 of the Act of 1921, as amended, and s. 4 of the Act of 1979. The applicants contended that what the respondent had been doing was inquiring into a possible offence under s. 1, sub-s. 2 of the Act of 1921, and that such an inquiry could only be conducted by the ordinary courts.

Held by Blayney J., in dismissing the application, 1, that whenever the tribunal considered that it was necessary for the purposes of its functions to make a particular order, it had power to do so under s. 4 of the Act of 1979.

2. That the issues for consideration were firstly, whether the tribunal's opinion that the making of the order was necessary...

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