Peter Murphy v Gary Callinan, Julie Carroll, and Arb Underwriting Ltd, The Commissioner of an Garda Síochána Ireland and The Attorney General

CourtSupreme Court
JudgeClarke C. J.,O'Malley,Baker J.
Judgment Date29 July 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] IESC 52
Docket NumberSupreme Court Appeal No. 435/2012
Peter Murphy
Gary Callinan, Julie Carroll, and Arb Underwriting Limited, The Commissioner of an Garda Síochána Ireland and The Attorney General

[2021] IESC 52

Clarke C. J.


Baker J.

Supreme Court Appeal No. 435/2012


Breach of duty – Damages – Costs – Appellant seeking costs – Whether costs should follow the event

Facts: Judgment was given in this appeal on 30 November 2018 ([2018] IESC 59). The appeal was from the dismissal of the proceedings by the High Court at the conclusion of the evidence of the plaintiff/appellant, Mr Murphy. The plaintiff’s claim was made under a number of heads: for damages, for injurious falsehood, and for negligence, breach of duty and breach of constitutional rights arising out of what he said was the communication of incorrect data regarding motoring and non-motoring offences which he said was false and inaccurate. The appeal succeeded in one respect only, and the Supreme Court held that s. 7 of the Data Protection Act 1988 as amended by the Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003 preserved a judicial remedy for breach of the duty of care by a data controller, and that the trial judge had been incorrect to conclude that a claim in damages could not succeed. The appellant failed in regard to the other grounds of appeal before the Court and the conclusion was that the trial judge had been correct in what was described as “his primary determination” that the plaintiff had not established a prima facie case in negligence and/or breach of duty and/or injurious falsehood. The Court concluded that the appeal should be dismissed, albeit Mr Murphy was correct that the remedies given by the Data Protection Acts did not exclude remedies in tort. Mr Murphy relied on s. 169(1) of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and said that he was successful in the proceedings, and that he did succeed in the “event” in that as a matter of fact during the hearing of the proceedings in the High Court certain documents had been produced which showed that the information ascribed to him related to another person of the same name and not to the plaintiff himself. On the facts the plaintiff argued that he succeeded in vindicating and protecting his rights to a good name in particular, and that the records by UK authorities were shown not to relate to him. He further argued that the Court should exercise its statutory discretion to depart from the rule that costs follow the event, having regard to the nature and circumstances of the case. On that basis he argued that his constitutional right to litigate should be vindicated and that the Court did not make any determination that the proceedings were an abuse of process. He also relied on the general principle of equality of arms, and in particular asked that the Court have regard to the fact that the defendants/respondents, Mr Callinan, Ms Carroll, ARB Underwriting Ltd, the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Ireland and the Attorney General, were amply resourced and were represented by experienced solicitor and counsel. He argued that the processing of data is a matter of public importance and that the accuracy of information retained on the Garda PULSE database is one of public importance generally.

Held by the Court that the appellant did succeed in an important legal issue in the appeal and must be given credit for this, albeit he did not succeed in obtaining the remedy he sought. In recognition of that factor, and noting that the plaintiff did not succeed in reversing the “event” by reason of the appeal, the Court varied the costs order made in the High Court so that the appellant was to be liable for 70% only of those costs. The Court held that there was for the same reason to be no order for costs in the Court.


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