Quinn v Honourable Society of King's Inns

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMR. JUSTICE T.C. SMYTH
Judgment Date15 June 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] IEHC 220
Docket Number[2003 No. 791 J.R.]
Date15 June 2004

[2004] IEHC 220

THE HIGH COURT

HC 220/O4
Record No. 791JR/2003
QUINN v. HONOURABLE SOCIETY OF KINGS INNS
DUBLIN
(JUDICIAL REVIEW)

BETWEEN:

JUSTINE QUINN
Applicant
-and-
THE HONOURABLE SOCIETY OF KING'S INNS
Respondent
Abstract:

Judicial review - Legal profession - Certiorari - Legitimate expectation - Privity of contract - Education - Examinations - Fair procedures - Right to livelihood - Whether examination candidate entitled to have papers independently reviewed - Whether decision of respondent ultra vires - Whether matter amenable to judicial review - Bunreacht na hÉireann, 1937.

The applicant, a law student had sat the entrance exam for the respondent college. The applicant was a holder of a law degree from University College Dublin where she had obtained a 2:1 degree. As part of her law degree she had studied company law and had obtained a mark of 69% and her overall standard was 67%. A problem arose when she sat the company law exam for King’s Inns and obtained a mark of 25% resulting in the applicant failing the entrance examination. The applicant ultimately issued judicial review proceedings seeking a number of reliefs. These included an order of certiorari quashing the decision of the respondent to refuse to admit her as a student, a declaration that she was entitled to have her examination paper independently reviewed, a declaration that the decision of the respondent was ultra vires and that the procedures applied by the respondent failed to vindicate her right to a livelihood under the Constitution. The respondent contended that the applicant was not entitled to the relief sought and furthermore contended that the matter was one essentially of contract between the applicant and respondent and was not amenable to judicial review.

Held by Smyth J in refusing the relief sought. The applicant was accepted as a candidate for the entrance examination under the education rules of the respondent. Accordingly the applicant’s rights were determined by a private contract with respect to the respondent. The applicant was not entitled to invoke a public law remedy for a private law right. There was no evidence of any implied right to an appeal or to have the exam script assessed by a third party. Both the examiner and external examiner reviewed the applicant’s script and their reports were considered by the Education Board of the respondent. There was nothing arbitrary nor unfair in the procedures applied by the respondent.

Reporter: R.F.

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MR. JUSTICE T.C. SMYTH DELIVERED TUESDAY, 15TH JUNE 2004

MR. JUSTICE T.C. SMYTH DELIVERED HIS JUDGMENT, AS FOLLOWS, ON TUESDAY, 15TH JUNE 2004

MR. JUSTICE SMYTH:

On 3rd November 2003, 0'Sullivan J granted the

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Applicant leave to apply for judicial review to claim the following reliefs:-

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1. An order of Certiorari quashing the decision of the Respondent to refuse the application of the Applicant to be admitted as a candidate for the Degree of Barrister at Law at the Honourable Society of the King's Inns, notified to the Applicant on or about 8th October 2003.

4

2. A Declaration by way of an application for judicial review that the Applicant, the Respondent being the only body competent to confer the Degree of Barrister at Law within the jurisdiction, is entitled to have her examination scripts independently reviewed before an appeal body composed of independent and appropriately qualified individual(s).

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3. A Declaration by way of an application for judicial review that the decision of the Respondent was ultra vires by reason of unreasonableness having regard to the evidence to be adduced by the Applicant.

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4. A Declaration by way of an application for judicial review that the procedure for assessing admissibility applied by the Respondent fails to vindicate the constitutional right of the Applicant to earn a livelihood and to prepare for and follow a chosen career pursuant to Article 40.3.1 of the Constitution.

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5. Damages.

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6. Costs.

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The grounds permitted to be advanced were eleven in number and were set out in the statement grounding the application.

THE FACTS :
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I am satisfied and find the following facts are established by the evidence:-

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The Applicant was and is a law graduate of Dublin University. She achieved a Degree, rated as 2.1, with an average standard of 67%, which is an Honours Degree (in the year 2003). The course she followed at the university was a four-year course, in the third year of which (2001–2002) she studied Company Law and achieved a grade of 69%. Almost to the day, a year later, in response to her application to the Respondent to sit the entrance examination of the Respondent, she was furnished with information which included:-

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A. An extract from the Education Rules of the Respondent relevant to the entrance examination, which (inter alia) provided:-

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"9 Marks and Standards

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(a) To be awarded a pass in the entrance examination a candidate must achieve marks of at least 40% in each subject. A candidate who fails more than one subject shall not be permitted to pass the examination. A candidate who fails one subject shall be permitted to pass the examination if he achieves a pass mark when the marks of all subjects are averaged out, provided that the failure in that subject does not fall below a minimum of 10% lower than the pass mark.

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(c) Candidates who take the entrance examination shall pass all subjects in one sitting subject to the above provisions concerning compensation. No exemptions in any subject shall be allowed. Candidates are not allowed to transfer results from one year into a subsequent year."

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B. Examination Regulation and Procedures 2003 This two-page document consists of nineteen numbered paragraphs of which number eighteen provides as follows:-

"(18) Please note that the rules make no provision for appeals in respect of the entrance examination."

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The Applicant avers that she studied diligently for the entrance examination during the summer of 2003. On 1st September 2003, the Applicant presented herself at the venue for the entrance examination and signed a form whereby she stated that she had read, understood and would abide by the entrance examination rules, regulations and procedures of King's Inns, which had been sent to her some two months earlier on 2nd July 2003 having before the latter date paid her examination fee.

18

On 3rd September 2003, the Applicant sat an examination in Company Law, which was one of the five subjects that comprised the entrance examination. The Internal Examiner for this subject was Professor Ellis, who is neither a member of King's Inns nor part of its staff: he is Professor of Corporate, Commercial and Economic Law at the University of Limerick. The External Examiner was Mr. Lyndon McCann, SC, who was and is not on the staff of the Council or any Committee or Board of King's Inns, but whose Degree as a Barrister at Law was acquired at King's Inns, but whose patent of precedence was conferred by the Government of the day in 2003.

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The ultimate results of the examination were that 129 students sat the examination, 127 completed all five subjects, 113 passed (including compensation), and 16 students failed the examination.

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The Examination Board, having received the corrected scripts and marks from all the Examiners, met with the Examiners on 3rd October 2003 to review or consider the results. At that meeting, which Marcel la Higgins, Director of Education in King's Inns, attended, she avers that the Examination Board considered the marks of those candidates who had failed subjects. Further, she avers at paragraph (8) of her affidavit sworn herein on 21st November 2003 as follows:-

"Having regard to the disparity between the mark awarded to the Applicant in Company Law (25%) and the marks awarded to her in other subjects, particular regard was had to the Applicant's paper at this meeting and the Examiner and External Examiner were each asked to give further consideration to the Applicant's paper. The Examiner and External Examiner were both satisfied that the mark awarded to the Applicant was the appropriate mark and that there was no basis for increasing same."

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By letter dated 7th October 2003, the Applicant was advised of the results of the entrance examination. The Applicant's average mark in four subjects was in the order of 68%, but by reason of having only received 25% in Company Law the Applicant failed the examination. The Applicant was shocked and distressed at the result and put in train a series of enquiries and requests throughout the month of October 2003.

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By e-mail letter of Friday, 10th October, the Applicant (inter alia) requested the Examination Board to review her paper once again to ascertain its value. A response of the same date, in similar manner, informed the Applicant that the concerns of her letter would be considered by the Board at a specially convened meeting on Thursday, 16th October, and that she could inspect her examination script at any time in the office of the Director of Education. On Monday, 13th October, the Applicant sought permission to have a "suitably qualified person" with her when inspecting her examination script and enquired if the Board would request a "Company Law Examiner other than those already involved" to view her script.

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The Applicant's correspondence was before the specially convened meeting, as were reports on her scripts which had been submitted by Professor Ellis and Mr. Lyndon McCann, SC. By letter of 17th October, the Director of Education wrote to the Applicant in the following terms:-

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"Dear Ms. Quinn,

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Your letter of 10th October 2003 and e-mail of 13th October 2003 were considered by the Examination Board at its meeting yesterday.

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The Board wish to confirm that there is no administration or totting error regarding your script...

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9 cases
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    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
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    ...applied to either (or both): the body which is exercising the function, and the function being exercised.’ See also Quinn v King's Inns [2004] 4 IR 344, Zhang v Athlone IT [2013] IEHC 390 and O'Connell v The Turf Club [2017] 2 IR 43 and the remark of O'Donnell J at paragraph 80 that ‘sig......
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    • 28 July 2021
    ...in every case where a disciplinary body imposes a sanction. Kearns P. relied upon Quinn v. The Honourable Society of King's Inns [2004] 4 I.R. 344 in which it was said that even in circumstances where an application was viewed as a public law matter, the requirements of natural justice as r......
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    ...justice in every case where a disciplinary body imposes a sanction. [52] Thus in Quinn v. Honourable Society of King's Inns [2004] IEHC 220, [2004] 4 I.R. 344 Smyth J. held that, even in circumstances where an application was viewed as a public law matter, the requirements of natural justi......
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1 books & journal articles
  • iPromise: How Contract Theory Can Inform Regulation of Online Consumer Contracts
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    ...and James McDermott, Contract Law (2nd edn, Bloomsbury Professional 2017) [12.113]. 108 Quinn v Honorable Society of King's Inns [2004] IEHC 220, [2004] 4 IR 344, 362. 109 ibid. 110 Collooney Pharmacy Ltd v North Western Health Board [2005] IESC 44, [2005] 4 IR 124. 111 ibid 130. 112 Britis......

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