Permanent TSB Plc v Langan

CourtSupreme Court
JudgeChief Justice
Judgment Date12 December 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IESC 71
Docket Number[S.C. No. 119 of 2016],Record No. 119/2016
Date12 December 2017

[2017] IESC 71


Clarke C.J.

Clarke C.J.

O'Donnell Donal J.

McKechnie J.

MacMenamin J.

O'Malley Iseult J.

Record No. 119/2016

Permanent TSB plc
David Langan
The Attorney General

Administrative & constitutional law – Courts – Circuit Court – Jurisdiction – Residential property – Rateable valuation – Statutory interpretation – Valuation Act 2001 - Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961

Facts: The respondent had entered into a number of mortgages with the appellant, but defaulted on payment. Possession proceedings were issued and orders made in the appellant's favour by the Circuit Court. The respondent appealed to the High Court, and a case was stated to the Court of Appeal for guidance in respect of conflicting High Court decisions as the Circuit Court's jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal had given responses to the questions stated by the High Court, which the appellant now sought to appeal with the Attorney General intervening on the basis the points raised were of public importance.

Held by Clarke CJ, the other Justices concurring, that the appeal would be allowed. The Court reviewed the provisions of the 2001 Act and the 1961 Act as well as the general principles of statutory construction and the Constitution. Having done so, the Court was persuaded to substitute the answers given by the Court of Appeal for fresh answers in respect of the Circuit's jurisdiction and limits applicable to that jurisdiction.

Judgment of the Chief Justice delivered the 12th December, 2017
1. Introduction

Both the Constitution, and its predecessor the Constitution of the Free State, provided for the establishment of courts of local and limited jurisdiction. From the foundation of the State one such court has been a Circuit Court on which was conferred a significant civil and criminal jurisdiction.


In the civil field, a wide range of property related jurisdictions have traditionally been conferred on the Circuit Court. Historically, the limit on that property related jurisdiction has normally been specified by reference to the rateable valuation of relevant property.


However, developments over recent years have now led to a situation where private residential property is not only not subject to a charge of rates but is not, at least ordinarily, valued for the purposes of rates. It follows that there are now many residential premises which have no rateable valuation. However, for some time no amendment was made to the legislation which defined the limits of the property related jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. It was in that context that the issue which arises on this appeal came into focus. The issue is a very net one.


On a proper construction of the legislation in question and having regard, if appropriate, to the provisions of the Constitution, what is the jurisdiction, if any, of the Circuit Court in cases involving residential property which does not have a rateable valuation? On one interpretation, the Circuit Court has no jurisdiction to deal with a relatively wide range of property related cases at all because the property concerned does not have a rateable valuation. On another interpretation, the Circuit Court can deal with any relevant property related case provided that the property in question does not actually have a rateable valuation of more than the specified threshold.


Put simply, the competing positions, which admittedly only relate to a particular class of residential property, suggest that the Circuit Court either has no jurisdiction or an unlimited jurisdiction in relation to the class of property in question.


In circumstances which it will be necessary to set out in a little more detail, Baker J., in the High Court, stated a case on this question for the opinion of the Court of Appeal. That Court (see Permanent TSB v. Langan [2016] IECA 229) came to the view, in answering the questions referred by Baker J., that, substantially, the answer to the issue which I have identified is that the Circuit Court does not ordinarily have jurisdiction (although there were some qualifications to that answer as set out in the ruling of the Court of Appeal). Thereafter, with the leave of this Court, a further appeal has been brought. In order to understand the issues which arise with greater precision, it is perhaps appropriate to start with a brief account of the procedural history.

2. Procedural History

The Defendant/Respondent, ('Mr. Langan'), entered into mortgages in relation to 6 properties with the Plaintiff/Appellant ('Permanent TSB'), and subsequently defaulted on the repayment of these mortgages. As a consequence of Mr. Langan's default, Permanent TSB instituted possession proceedings in the Circuit Court in the form of two Civil Bills. By orders of the Circuit Court, Dublin Circuit, County of the City of Dublin made by Her Honour Judge Linnane on 23rd February, 2015 in –

(a) title jurisdiction civil bill proceedings for possession (Record No. 2014/01781), and

(b) title jurisdiction civil bill proceedings for possession (Record No. 2014/01782),

it was ordered that Permanent TSB recover possession against Mr. Langan in both proceedings. This had the effect of giving Permanent TSB orders for possession in respect of all of the relevant properties.


Mr. Langan subsequently appealed those Circuit Court orders to the High Court. After Mr. Langan had lodged his appeal, but before his appeal could be heard by the High Court, Murphy J. delivered her judgment in Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank v. Finnegan [2015] IEHC 304. That decision concerned the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court in disputes concerning property without a rateable valuation. Murphy J. held that the Circuit Court does not have jurisdiction in relation to such property. On the basis of this judgment, Mr. Langan successfully applied to amend his appeal to the High Court so as to permit him to challenge the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court to grant orders for possession in his case, arguing that, by virtue of the provisions of the Valuation Act 2001, ('the 2001 Act'), the properties in question were not rateable and therefore the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court was excluded.


Following the decision in Finnegan, Noonan J. delivered his judgment in Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank v. Hanley [2015] IEHC 738. Noonan J. reluctantly reached the opposite conclusion to his colleague in the High Court, and held that the Circuit Court did have jurisdiction to hear proceedings relating to property without a rateable valuation.


Presented with these recent, conflicting High Court judgments, Baker J. stated a case to the Court of Appeal, seeking responses to the following questions:

(1) If a property is not rateable by virtue of the Valuation Act 2001, or otherwise, is the Circuit Court's jurisdiction under s. 22(1) of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 excluded?

(2) In the alternative does the Circuit Court have jurisdiction by virtue of the property not having a rateable valuation that exceeds €253.95?

(3) Is the Circuit Court entitled to proceed to judgment, unless it is shown by evidence that there is a rateable valuation which exceeds €253.95?

(4) If there is no certificate of rateable valuation, how does the court exercise its power to estimate rateable valuation under s. 31 of the County Officers and Courts (Ireland) Act 1877?

(5) Is the plea in a Civil Bill taken together with evidence on affidavit of a provisional estimate of rateable valuation, sufficient 'legal evidence' on which the court can make an estimate rateable valuation for the purposes of s. 31 of the County Officers and Courts (Ireland) Act 1877?


Hogan J. delivered the judgment of the Court of Appeal, and gave the following responses to the above questions:

(1) Yes, subject to the answer given in respect of Q.3.

(2) No.

(3) Where the defendant has put the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court at issue, that Court is not entitled to proceed to judgment in respect of a domestic dwelling which has been rendered unrateable by the Valuation Act 2001, unless the case in question comes within either Part 10 of the 2009 Act or s. 3 of the 2013 Act.

(4) Does not arise.

(5) Does not arise.


Permanent TSB sought leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal to this Court, which leave was granted ( Permanent TSB v. Langan [2016] IESCDET 139) on the basis that the decision of the Court of Appeal involved a matter of general public importance. The grounds on which leave was granted are expressed as follows: 'whether the Court of Appeal was incorrect in its answers to each of the questions posed in the case stated from the High Court and, if so, the consequences for this case'.


The Attorney General sought and obtained from this Court leave to intervene in this appeal on the basis that it was asserted that the issues raised were both of public importance in themselves and had the potential to affect other similar questions concerning statutory jurisdiction.


It should be emphasised that the problem which has given rise to this appeal stems from the fact that no specific statutory provision was made, at the time when the rating system in respect of residential premises was altered, which specifically addressed the effect which that change was intended to have on the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. If legislation had made clear what the intended effect was to be then there would have been no difficulty. However, all three High Court Judges, and indeed the Court of Appeal, were left with the difficult task of attempting to apply existing legislation which defined the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court without any such specific measures having been adopted. In those circumstances it is not at all surprising that...

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