Sinnott -v- Minister for Education, [2001] IESC 63 (2001)

Docket Number:No. 326 & 327/00
Party Name:Sinnott, Minister for Education
Judge:Keane C.J. / Fennelly J. / Geoghegan J. / Denham J. / Murphy J. / Hardiman J. / Murray J.
 
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THE SUPREME COURT

Record No. 326 & 327/00Keane, C.J.

Denham, J.

Murphy, J.

Murray, J.

Hardiman, J.

Geoghegan, J.

Fennelly, J.

BETWEENJAMIE SINNOTT A PERSON OF UNSOUND MIND

NOT SO FOUND SUING BY HIS MOTHER AND

NEXT FRIEND KATHRYN SINNOTTPlaintiff/RespondentAND

THE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, IRELAND

AND THE ATTORNEY GENERALDefendants/AppellantsANDBETWEEN

KATHRYN SINNOTTPlaintiff/RespondentAND

THE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, IRELAND

AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Defendants/Appellants

Judgment delivered the 12th day of July,2001, by Murray, J.

The first of the two above named cases, which have been heard together concerns

Mr Jamie Sinnott who was born on the 11th day of October, 1977 and who, a few months after his birth, was diagnosed as suffering from a severe form of autism.

The facts of the case, and in particular the history concerning Jamie's upbringing and education are clearly and extensively set out in the judgment of Keane, C.J. as well as in the judgment of the High Court of Barr, J. The present appeal before this Court could perhaps be said to be the ultimate point of an arduous odyssey pursued with remarkable perseverance and fortitude by his mother, Mrs Sinnott, with a view to establishing his rights in law to an education appropriate to his needs as a person suffering from severe intellectual and physical handicap.

The findings of fact made by the learned High Court Judge are not in issue in this appeal. More significantly not all the matters comprised in the Order of the learned High Court Judge are in issue, largely as a result of concessions made by the State. Accordingly, I think it is important to identify the constitutional issue or issues with which this appeal is concerned and those with which it is not.

As Geoghegan, J. correctly points out in his judgment the decision and Order of the High Court was based exclusively on the first part of Article 42.4. This was also the basis of the Plaintiff's arguments in this Court.

In summary the High Court Order made the following findings in favour of

Jamie Sinnott:

(a) He has had at all material times a constitutional right to free primary education appropriate to his needs as a severely autistic child;

(b) He has a right to be provided with free primary education - not only as a child but as a constitutional entitlement from the point when he reached adulthood into the future for as long as he is capable of benefiting from it.

(c) He is entitled to general damages to date and in the future against the State for breach of its constitutional duty to provide for his primary education.

(d) A mandatory Order directing the Defendants to forthwith provide free primary education in the future appropriate to his needs for as long as he is capable of benefiting from same.

There was also provision for damages to cater for special damages for his educational and ancillary needs for a 30 month period following the making of the High Court Order with provision for a review by the High Court of the mandatory Order and the damages awarded at the end of that period. The State, as appellant, is not appealing against the finding of the learned High Court Judge that it was in breach of its constitutional obligations in failing to provide for free primary education for Jamie Sinnott in the years before he reached the age of an adult. As an integral part of this concession, it concedes that this right continued to the age of 18 but not beyond. Neither does the State contest the learned High Court Judge's findings as to the content or nature of the care, training and education which was appropriate to his needs and which constituted primary education within the meaning of Article 42.4. The State also do not contest the damages awarded to Jamie Sinnott in particular the general damages to date which were calculated on the basis that he has suffered a breach of his constitutional rights up to the age of 23, (his age at the time of the hearing of the High Court action), beyond the age limit of 18 years notwithstanding that the State submits that it's constitutional obligations end at that latter age. This was stated to be an ex gratia stance taken by the State. It is also been indicated that as a matter of policy Jamie Sinnott will continue to receive care, training and education in accordance with his mother's wishes. Since this is a matter of policy only we are not concerned with that here.

In my view the case is not concerned with the content or quality of what constitutes primary education within the meaning of Article 42.4 since this point was not appealed and must be considered as moot for present purposes. Nor is it concerned with the constitutional right of...

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