P.C. v Purported Judicial Successors to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Others

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice Meenan
Judgment Date19 May 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] IEHC 366
Docket Number[2021 No. 670 SS]
CourtHigh Court

In the Matter of an Application Under Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution

Between
P.C.
Applicant
and
Purported Judicial Successors to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Others
Respondents

[2021] IEHC 366

[2021 No. 670 SS]

THE HIGH COURT

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Meenan delivered on the 19th day of May, 2021.

Introduction
1

This is an application brought by the applicant challenging the validity of Orders made by this Court (Heslin J.) that his mother, A.C., now 98 years of age, remain an inpatient at St. Finbarr's Hospital, Douglas Road, Cork pending further Order of the Court. The applicant, over the last number of years, has initiated numerous proceedings in a bid to have his mother taken out of the said hospital. I refer to the following passage from the judgment of Ní Raifeartaigh J. in A.C. v. Simon Harris & Ors [2019] IEHC 933 where she stated:-

“—- [the applicant's mother] is a ward of court, having been admitted to wardship by the President of the High Court, Kelly P., on 19th August, 2016. The present application was initiated by her son, Mr. P.C., in what has now become a three-year legal battle by him to have his mother released from hospital. His efforts have to date encompassed at least four applications by him pursuant to Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution (one of which led to a written judgment by the High Court, Faherty J., on 3rd August, 2018 – see A.C. v. Fitzpatrick & Ors [2018] IEHC 570); two successful appeals by Mr. P.C. to the Court of Appeal (judgments delivered on 2nd and 30th July, 2018 respectively – see A.C. v. Cork University Hospital & Ors [2018] IECA 217 and A.C. & Anor v. General Manager of St. Finbarr's Hospital & Anor [2018] IECA 272); the initiation by him of plenary proceedings (currently the subject of a stay order made by the President of the High Court); and a Supreme Court decision delivered on the 17th October, 2019 (see A.C. & Ors v. Cork University Hospital & Ors [2019] IESC 73). Mr. P.C. was also the subject of attachment and committal proceedings at one point before the President of the High Court, and his appeal in respect of that process to the Court of Appeal was unsuccessful.”

2

The Orders which the applicant seeks to challenge were made by this Court on 27 January 2021 (Heslin J.) and 12 May 2021 (Heslin J.). These Orders, described as safeguarding orders, direct that the applicant's mother, A.C., would remain an inpatient in the said hospital. The Orders further provided, inter alia, that the applicant and his sister, V.C., would be prohibited from attending at or entering onto the grounds of the said hospital, be prohibited from photographing or making any audio and/or video recording of any person arriving at or departing from the said hospital and that any phone call to A.C. would be prohibited. The said Orders further provided:-

“[P.C.] and [V.C.] be at liberty to apply to discharge or vary this Order on 72 hours notice to the Court the Health Service Executive and the Committee.”

It will be noted that one of these Orders was made on 12 May 2021, the day after the applicant made this application under Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution on 11 May 2021.

3

In the course of his application before this Court, the applicant made clear that he was not challenging the Order of 12 May 2021.

Preliminary issues
4

The applicant made his application ex parte to this Court. I am aware that there has been previous extensive litigation concerning the applicant's mother and, concerned that the within application might be an attempt to relitigate matters that have already been the subject of previous decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and this Court, I directed certain parties be put on notice of the application. These parties were the HSE, the General Solicitor for Minors and Wards of Court, the Committee of the Ward, Ireland and the Attorney General. In the course of moving his ex parte application on 11 May 2021, the applicant requested that I recuse myself from the hearing on the grounds of objective bias. This alleged bias arose from a decision of the Court of Appeal which overturned a decision I made in July, 2018 referring an earlier application by the applicant under Article 40.4.2 to be heard by the President, Kelly P., in the Wards of Court list. Clearly, my decision did not involve reviewing or considering the merits of the application so, in my view, no issue of bias, objective or otherwise, would arise. I am satisfied my decision not to recuse myself is in accordance with the principles set out by Denham J. (as she then was) in Bula Ltd v. Tara Mines Ltd (No. 6) [2000] 4 I.R. 412.

5

I also made an Order, which the applicant contested, pursuant to s. 27 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008 prohibiting the publication of any matter likely to identify A.C. I made this Order as it was clear that the hearing would necessarily involve reference to highly sensitive and personal details relating to A.C.

The application
6

I heard the application over two days: 13/14 May 2021. As all the relevant parties were represented, I treated this hearing as being an inquiry under Article 40.4.2 as to the lawfulness of A.C. remaining an inpatient in the said hospital. The HSE produced to the Court a “ Certificate of Detention”, dated 13 May 2021. This certified the grounds of detention of A.C. per the Orders of Heslin J. made on 27 January 2021 and 12 May 2021. It should be stated that the relevant provision in the Orders relating to the detention of A.C. are worded in precisely the same way, namely:-

“[A.C.] the Ward shall remain an in-patient at St. Finbarr's Hospital Douglas Road Cork pending further Order of the Court”

7

The application was grounded on an affidavit of the applicant and a Statement of Grounds was provided. There is no reference to the hearing fixed for 12 May 2021 in either the grounding affidavit or the Statement of Grounds. The applicant maintained that he was not aware that this hearing was fixed for 12 May 2021 when he made his application under Article 40.4.2 on 11 May 2021. When the Court enquired as to how this could be, a number of emails...

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