M.C. v The Clinical Director of the Central Mental Hospital

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMs. Justice Baker
Judgment Date04 June 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] IESC 28
Date04 June 2020
Docket Number[S:AP:IE:2019:000136],[S.C. No. 136 of 2019]
CourtSupreme Court
Between/
M. C.
Applicant/Appellant
- And -
The Clinical Director of The Central Mental Hospital
Respondent
- And -
The Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board
Notice Party

[2020] IESC 28

Clarke C.J.

McKechnie J.

MacMenamin J.

Charleton J.

Baker J.

[S:AP:IE:2019:000136]

THE SUPREME COURT

Damages – Mootness – Statutory duty – Appellant seeking declaratory relief and damages – Whether the claim was moot

Facts: The appellant, on 29 July 2002, took the life of her infant son and attempted to drown her young daughter. Having been found guilty of the killing and attempted murder on 20 January 2006, she was committed to the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. In June 2006, following the enactment of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, she was reclassified as a person found not guilty of the crimes by reason of insanity. On 9 August 2012, the notice party, the Mental Health Review Board, permitted her release from the CMH subject to conditions. On 12 December 2013, the Review Board acceded to her application for a variation of the conditions concerning her choice of residence attaching to her release. By letter of 13 December 2013, the Review Board directed the respondent, the Clinical Director of the CMH, to assess and then confirm the making of certain arrangements to facilitate the proposed variation, and for the ongoing supervision and enforcement of the revised conditions. By his letter of 19 December 2013, the Clinical Director declined to assess and then put in place the arrangements. Leave to apply for judicial review was granted by the High Court on 30 July 2014 in which the appellant sought certiorari of the decision of the Clinical Director, mandamus directed to him to make such arrangements, and a declaration that the refusal to make the arrangements to facilitate the proposed variation were in breach of her rights or were unreasonable, unlawful, and an unwarranted interference with the exercise of the statutory powers and functions of the Review Board. The application for judicial review came on before Eagar J, but by that time, the Review Board had unconditionally discharged the appellant from the CMH. The appellant sought to maintain her application for declaratory relief, and for damages for breach of her constitutional rights and rights under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. The proceedings were dismissed as moot, and the Court of Appeal agreed. The following matters arose in the appeal to the Supreme Court: (1) whether the claim for declaratory relief and for damages was moot, either because there was no live controversy between the parties, or because the claim was “insubstantial”, the test applied by the Court of Appeal; (2) whether the refusal by the Clinical Director to make the necessary arrangements to facilitate the operation of the decision of the Review Board was lawful, and for that purpose, the question for consideration was the respective roles of the Review Board and of the Clinical Director in the light of the provisions of s. 13 of the 2006 Act; (3) whether the appellant was entitled to damages and on what basis.

Held by Baker J that the claim was not moot and that the Court of Appeal did not adopt the correct approach. She held that the Clinical Director wrongly refused to put in place the arrangements necessary to give practical effect to the proposed conditional order that the Review Board intended to make. She proposed that the Court should grant a declaration that the legislation required the Clinical Director to put those arrangements in place, and that he failed to perform that statutory duty. She held that the award of damages for breach of constitutional rights was not appropriate in this appeal. She held that the Court should consider further the question of whether damages should be awarded to the appellant under the 2003 Act, what Convention rights were alleged to have been breached, and how the quantum of damages was to be assessed.

Baker J held that the submissions at the hearing and the written submissions did not explore the rights alleged to be engaged, the possible remedy, or as to any useful authority of Irish courts or of the ECtHR, and she proposed that the parties be invited to make further submissions and, if necessary, oral argument on those questions.

Submissions directed.

JUDGMENT of Ms. Justice Baker delivered on the 4 th day of June, 2020
1

On 29 July 2002, Ms C took the life of her infant son and attempted to drown her young daughter. She was 27 years old at the time of these events, and having been found guilty of the killing and attempted murder on 20 January 2006, was committed to the Central Mental Hospital (“CMH”) with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. In June 2006, following the enactment of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 (“the 2006 Act”), she was reclassified as a person found not guilty of the crimes by reason of insanity.

2

Ms C is now 45 years of age, she was at the time of the events, and remains, married to her husband and the couple have four surviving children. She is a member of the Travelling Community.

3

Ms C responded very well to the treatment afforded to her in the CMH and at the date of the hearing of the appeal was living an orderly and full life in the company of her husband and children in their home in the west of Ireland. She has, it should be noted, a very good relationship with her daughter, whose life she attempted to take in 2002.

4

Ms C's detention was kept under review by the notice party to these proceedings, the Mental Health Review Board (“the Review Board”), under s. 13 of the 2006 Act, and following the fifteenth such review, on 9 August 2012, the Review Board permitted her release from the CMH subject to conditions.

5

The conditions imposed at that time were sought to be varied by Ms C, and on 12 December 2013, the Review Board acceded to her application for a variation of the conditions concerning her choice of residence attaching to her release.

6

It is the events following the decision by the Review Board in December 2013 that gave rise to an application for judicial review, an appeal from the decision of the High Court refusing judicial review to the Court of Appeal, and subsequently, the granting of leave to appeal to this Court by its determination on 23 October 2019, M. C. v. Clinical Director Central Mental Hospital [2019] IESCDET 237.

7

The issue in dispute concerns the place of residence of Ms C. Until the Review Board made its determination in December 2013, the decision as to where Ms C would reside remained vested in her treating psychiatrist in the CMH, albeit in consultation and discussion with her. The variation decided by the Review Board in December 2013 was that Ms C herself could thenceforth decide her place of residence. As part of that process, by letter of 13 December 2013, the Review Board directed the Clinical Director of the CMH (“the Clinical Director”), to assess and then confirm the making of certain arrangements to facilitate the proposed variation, and for the ongoing supervision and enforcement of the revised conditions.

8

By his letter of 19 December 2013, the Clinical Director declined to assess and then put in place the arrangements necessary to facilitate the variation in the conditions of release.

9

Leave to apply for judicial review was granted by the High Court on 30 July 2014 in which Ms C sought certiorari of the decision of the Clinical Director, mandamus directed to him to make such arrangements, and a declaration that the refusal to make the arrangements to facilitate the proposed variation were in breach of her rights or were unreasonable, unlawful, and an unwarranted interference with the exercise of the statutory powers and functions of the Review Board.

10

The application for judicial review came on before Eagar J., but by that time, the Review Board had unconditionally discharged Ms C from the CMH, as a result of which she no longer needed to pursue a claim for mandamus or certiorari and some, but not all, of the declarations pleaded.

11

Ms C sought to maintain her application for declaratory relief, and for damages for breach of her constitutional rights and rights under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”). The proceedings were dismissed as moot, and the Court of Appeal agreed.

12

The following matters arise in this appeal:

1. Whether the claim for declaratory relief and for damages is moot, either because there was no live controversy between the parties, or because the claim was “insubstantial”, the test applied by the Court of Appeal;

2. Whether the refusal by the Clinical Director to make the necessary arrangements to facilitate the operation of the decision of the Review Board was lawful, and for that purpose, the question for consideration is the respective roles of the Review Board and of the Clinical Director in the light of the provisions of s. 13 of the 2006 Act;

3. Whether Ms C is entitled to damages and on what basis.

The statutory provisions
13

The CMH is a “designated centre” under s. 3 of the 2006 Act for the reception, detention, care, and treatment of persons committed or transferred there under the provisions of the Act.

14

The Clinical Director is defined by s. 71 of the Mental Health Act 2001 as follows:

“(1) The governing body of each approved centre shall appoint in writing a consultant psychiatrist to be the clinical director of the centre.

(2) Nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing a consultant psychiatrist from being the clinical director of more than one approved centre.”

15

The Clinical Director was at all material times, professor Henry G. Kennedy, a consultant forensic psychiatrist and clinical professor of Forensic Psychiatry at University of Dublin. Trinity College. At all material times, Ms C was under the care of Dr...

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