Minister for Justice v Information Commissioner

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeFinnegan J.
Judgment Date14 March 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] IEHC 35
Docket Number[2000
Date14 March 2001

[2001] IEHC 35

THE HIGH COURT

No. 96 MCA/2000
No. 97 MCA/2000
MINISTER FOR JUSTICE & COURTS SERVICE v. INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
IN THE MATTER OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997AND IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL PURSUANT TO SECTION 42(1) OF THATACT

BETWEEN

THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE EQUALITY AND LAWREFORM
APPELLANT

AND

FORMATION COMMISSIONER
RESPONDENT
IN THE MATTER OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997AND IN THE MATTER OF AN APPLICATION BY THE COURTS SERVICE PURSUANT TOSECTION 42 OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997

BETWEEN

THE COURTS SERVICE
APPELLANT

AND

THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
RESPONDENT

AND

PATRICK ROGERS, THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE EQUALITY AND LAWREFORM
NOTICE PARTIES
AND BY ORDER OF THE COURT THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLICPROSECUTIONS
NOTICE PARTY

Citations:

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S7

COURT SERVICES ACT 1998

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S46(1)

DEFENCE ACT 1954 S161

PRYOR V CITY OFFICE COMPANY 10 QB 504

SMALLEY V ROBEY 1962 1 QB 577

R V WESTMINISTER LONDON BOROUGH RENT OFFICE EX PARTE RENDALL 1973 3 AER 119

KREXTILE HOLDINGS PTY LTD V WIDDOWS 1974 VR 689

ELLIOTT V AUCKLAND CITY 1971 NZLR 824

COURTS OF JUSTICE ACT 1924 S33

CRIMINAL JUSTICE (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) ACT 1997 S7

RSC O.86 r1

RSC O.86 r14

RSC O.86 r17

RSC O.86 r17(2)

RSC O.123

RSC O.123 r4

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S46(1)(a)(I)

CHAMBERS V TIMES NEWSPAPERS LTD 1999 1 ILRM 504

KELLY V IRELAND 1986 ILRM 318

COURT OFFICERS ACT 1926 S65

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1967 S6

CRIMINAL EVIDENCE ACT 1992 S12

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S46(1)(b)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S2

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S2(5)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S34(12)(b)

Synopsis:

Freedom of Information

Freedom of information; access to records; appeal against decision of respondent to grant notice party access to records relating to particular criminal proceeding; whether records in question come within exception contained in statutory provisions; whether "proceedings" refers to any step in an action which is held in public; whether at all material times official stenographer had a relationship exclusively with court; whether transcripts are only provided by registrar to a party interested in an appeal or application for leave to appeal; whether notice party is such a party; whether there is an appeal in being; whether transcript requested by notice party is a record whose disclosure to general public is prohibited by court; whether assembling of documents, in particular, statements, and binding them together, constitutes a record; whether compilation of documents, even if this consists solely of photocopying of documents prepared elsewhere, and putting them into a book is creation of a record for purposes of Act; whether originality a necessary ingredient; whether, on information before court, it can be shown that refusal to grant a request in relation to the two claims for payment of fees in respect of the medical reports in the criminal proceedings had been justified; whether respondent properly granted access to same, subject to full information becoming available; ss. 7, 34.12(b) and 46.1, Freedom of information Act, 1997; s. 33, Courts of Justice Act, 1924 (as amended by s.7, Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1997.

Held: Decision of respondent discharged and substituted by order granting notice party access to two claims in respect of payment of fees in respect of the medical reports.

Min for Justice v. Information Commissioner - High Court: Finnegan J. - 14/03/2001 - [2001] 3 IR 43 - [2002] 2 ILRM 1

The notice party had sought access to certain court documents. The Information Commissioner granted access to certain records. The appellants appealed against the decision. Finnegan J was satisfied that some of the records were outside the ambit of the Freedom Of Information Act, 1997 and accordingly made the appropriate order.

1

Finnegan J.delivered the 14th day of March,2001.

2

On the 26th September, 1998 the Notice Party Patrick Rogers applied to the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform pursuant to Freedom of Information Act, 1997Section 7 for access to records being the complete transcript and associated materialsrelating to proceedings The People (DPP) -v- RoseRogers heard in the Circuit Criminal Court at Dundalk on the 10th June, 1998. The request was refused. Patrick Rogers sought an internal review of the decision to refuse his request pursuant to Section 14 of the Act and on this review the refusal was upheld. On the 22nd December, 1998 Patrick Rogers applied to the Information Commissioner for a review of this decision. At the conclusion of the review the Information Commissioner granted Patrick Rogers access to thefollowing:-

3

1. A typed transcript of the hearing.

4

2. Witness statements numbered 14,15,16 and two witness statements numbered 23 and two claims in respect of payment of fees.

5

3. A statement of Rose Rogers subject to the deletion of partsthereof.

6

The decision of the Information Commissioner was made on the 13th September, 2000. These proceedings are appeals against the said decision. The involvement of the Courts Service arises in that as a result of the Courts Services Act, 1998the Court Service and not the Minister has custody of the relevantdocuments.

7

This appeal turns on the correct construction of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997Section 46(1) and its application as so construed to the documents to which access was granted by the Information Commissioner's decision under appeal.

8

Section 46 provides as follows:-

9

46 (1) This Act does not apply to -

10

a. a record held by -

11

(i) the courts

12

(ii) a Tribunal to which the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921 is applied, or

13

(iii) A service tribunal within the meaning of Section 161 of the Defence Act, 1954,

14

and relating to, or to proceedings in, a court or such a tribunal other than -

15

(I) A record that relates to proceedings in a court or such a tribunal held in public but was not created by the court or tribunal and whose disclosure to the general public is not prohibited by the court or the tribunal, or

16

(II) A record relating to the general administration of the courts or the offices of the courts or such a Tribunal or any offices of such aTribunal

17

(b) A record held or created by the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Office of the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecution (other than a record concerning the general administration of either of those Offices)

18

The remaining provisions of Section 46 are not relevant to theseproceedings.

19

Thus the Act does not apply to a record held by the courts relating to a court or to proceedings in a court. An exception to this however arises and the Act will apply where the record

20

(a) relates to proceedings in a court and

21

(b) relates to proceedings held in public and

22

(c) was not created by the court and

23

(d) whose disclosure to the general public is not prohibited by thecourt.

24

In breaking down the exception into its constituent parts I have taken the view that the phrase "held in public" refers to the word "proceedings" and not to the word "court". I do this because in the present context I am satisfied that the word "proceedings" is not usedin the sense of an action but rather that it means any step in an action. For this step to come within the exception it must be a taken inpublic.

25

As to the meaning of "proceedings" the position is as follows. In the singular - proceeding - the word means an action as opposed to any step in an action: Pryor -v- City OfficesCompany 10 QBD 504. However, there are a number of decided cases where proceeding in the singular was held to mean a step in an action: Smalley -v- Robey & Company 1962 1 QB 577. On the basis that proceedings means steps in an action not every proceeding whether in a civil or criminal matter the hearing of which is held in public is itself a proceeding held in public. In R -v- Westminster London Borough Rent Officer, ex p.Rendall (1973) 3 ALL. ER 119 at 121 Lord Denning MR in relation to the Rent Act, 1968 said-

26

"The word "proceedings" is not defined in the Act, but I think it covers any proceedings of a legal nature, even though they do not take place in a court of law".

27

In Krextile Holdings PTY Limited -v- Widdows 1974 VR 689 at 693 it was held that the word "proceedings" in relation to a winding up is not limited merely to applications to the court or to proceedings which must be brought to the court under the Companies Acts but extends to all the matters that flowed directly from or invoked by the making of an order as part of the process of windingup.

28

In a New Zealand case Elliott -v- Auckland City (1971) NZLR 824 at 828 - McMullin J. said -

29

"The word "proceeding" is a word which covers not only those steps taken on an information up to the moment of conviction but also includes steps taken on the information after conviction to the point...

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