STANLEY v GARDA Síochána COMPLAINTS BOARD

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeJustice Laffoy
Judgment Date19 October 1999
Neutral Citation[1999] IEHC 200
Docket NumberNo. 329 J.R./1995
Date19 October 1999

[1999] IEHC 200

THE HIGH COURT

No. 329 J.R./1995
STANLEY v. GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS BOARD

BETWEEN

NOEL STANLEY
APPLICANT

AND

THE GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS BOARD
RESPONDENT

Citations:

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S4(3)(a)(vi)

OFFENCES AGAINST THE STATE ACT 1939 S30

CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT 1984 (TREATMENT OF PERSONS IN CUSTODY IN GARDA SIOCHANA STATIONS) REGS 1987 SI 119/1987 REG 8(4)

FORGERY ACT 1913

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S6

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S7(3)

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S4

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S4(2)

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S4(3)(a)

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S1

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S4(3)(b)

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S4(3)(c)

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S5

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S7

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S7(1)

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S7(4)

GARDA SIOCHANA COMPLAINTS ACT 1986 S7(5)

LYNCH, STATE V COONEY 1982 IR 337

CREEDON, STATE V CRIMINAL INJURIES COMPENSATION TRIBUNAL 1989 ILRM 105

DALY, STATE V MIN FOR AGRICULTURE 1987 IR 165

INTERNATIONAL FISHING LTD V MIN FOR MARINE 1989 IR 149

MCCORMACK, STATE V CURRAN 1987 ILRM 225

H V DPP 1994 2 IR 589

SKEFFINGTON V ROONEY 1994 1 IR 480

Synopsis

Garda Siochana

Judicial review; certiorari; ultra vires; fair procedures; reasonableness; duty to give reasons; applicant seeks certiorari of decision by respondent declaring that the applicant's complaint is a vexatious claim within the meaning of section 4(3)(a)(vi) of the Garda Siochana Complaints Act, 1986; whether applicant has established that the respondent's decision was fundamentally at variance with reason and common sense; whether the Court is entitled to infer that the respondent did not turn his mind to the question of whether an offence might have been committed or the alternative inference that the respondent formed the opinion that an offence might have been committed; whether the respondent's failure to give reasons was a breach of the applicant's right to fair procedures; s.7, Garda Siochana Complaints Act, 1986.

Held: Relief refused.

Stanley v. Garda Siochana Complaints Board - High Court: Laffoy J. - 19/10/1999 - [2000] 2 ILRM 121

The respondent's role under s.7 of the Garda Siochana Complaints Act, 1986 is to act as a filtering process and neither the complainant nor the party being investigated is entitled to challenge the decision reached on the basis that the respondent formed the wrong opinion. Therefore, the failure to give reasons is neither unfair nor unjust to the applicant. The High Court so held in refusing the relief sought and further saying that there was no evidence before it to justify the conclusion that the respondent had acted unreasonably in reaching its decision.

1

Justice Laffoydelivered on the 19th day of October, 1999

RELIEF CLAIMED
2

On this application, the Applicant seeks an Order of Certiorari by way of judicial review of a decision of the Respondent made on or about 12th April, 1995 declaring the complaint made by the Applicant to be a vexatious claim within the meaning of Section 4(3)(a)(vi) of the Garda Siochana Complaints Act, 1986(the Act of 1986). In broad terms the relief is sought on two grounds,namely:-

3

2 That the purported decision of the Respondent was unreasonable and thereby ultra vires; and

4

(2) That the Respondent failed to comply with the principles of natural and constitutional justice and basic fairness of procedure in failing to state reasons why the Applicant's complaint was dismissed as being vexatious despite the Applicant's request for reasons.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND
5

On 5th January, 1994, the Applicant was arrested by members of the Garda Siochana pursuant to Section 30 of the Offences against the State Act, 1939and he was taken to Dundalk Garda Station where he was detained for approximately six hours before being released without charge. Following his release he sought and was furnished with a copy of his custody record. Subsequently, his solicitors, McGuill & Company, wrote to the Garda Siochana referring to entry 24 on the custody record and stating that the signature there appearing was not the Applicant's signature although it purported to be and queried the circumstances in which some other person appended the Applicant's name to that portion of the document, the reasons therefore and the identity of the person. The response was in the following terms:-

"On the date in question your client was requested to sign the Custody Record which he did in the presence of Sergeant John McKeown, Dundalk Garda Station.""

6

Entry 24 on the custody record was an acknowledgement of "receipt of notice of rights". Written in manuscript on the line provided for "signature of person in custody"was "N. Stanley". Regulation 8(4) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984(Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Siochana Stations) Regulations, 1987 (S.I. No.119 of 1987) provides as follows:-

"The time of the giving of the information specified in paragraph (1) and the notice specified in paragraph (2) shall be recorded. The member in charge shall ask the arrested person or cause him to be asked to sign the custody record in acknowledgement of receipt of the notice. If he refuses to sign, the refusal shall be recorded."

7

On 24th February, 1994, the Applicant, through his solicitors, made a complaint in writing to the Respondent stating that the signature on the custody record was not the Applicant's signature and that it appeared that the record in relation to his custody had been altered in circumstances which the Applicant believed gave rise to a complaint against the detaining members. The Respondent was requested to appoint an investigating officer to consider the complaint. The complaint was acknowledged by letter dated 8th March, 1994.

8

By letter dated 14th March, 1994 the Chief Executive of the Respondent advised the Applicant's solicitors that he was making certain enquiries concerning the incidents referred to in the complaint to determine the admissibility of the complaint and would be writing again when he had received the information sought. The next letter from the Chief Executive of the Respondent was a letter dated 30th March, 1994 in which he stated as follows:-

"I obtained a report from the Garda Commissioner in relation to the incident which gave rise to your complaint. I have carefully considered you complaint, and the Commissioner's report, and, having regard to all the circumstances of the incident, I am of the opinion that it is not admissible as it has not been shown to satisfy all the required conditions, in particular that the conduct complained of would constitute an offence or a breach of discipline."

9

This letter evoked a response from the Applicant's solicitors in which they stated that they were astounded that it was suggested that filling in the document in the name of a person who did not fill it in constituted neither an offence nor a breach of discipline and they referred to the Forgery Act, 1913. subsequently, the decision as to admissibility in the letter of 30th March, 1994 was reversed and the Chief Executive wrote to the Applicant's solicitors by letter dated 12th May, 1994 in the following terms:-

"From the information available to me at this stage, I am of opinion that the complaint is admissible under the Act, and I have notified the Garda commissioner accordingly. I have instructed him to appoint an Investigating Officer under sec. 6 of the Act, and he will provide me with details of this appointment."

10

subsequently, on 2nd June, 1994 the applicant's solicitors were notified that inspector D. McCann of Drogheda Garda Station had been appointed investigating officer.

11

The Applicant gave a statement to Inspector McCann on 28th July, 1994. In the statement, the Applicant stated that at no time did he sign the document and that thewriting purporting to be his signature was a forgery. He indicated that he was willing to undergo handwriting analysis and to submit samples of his past handwriting for such analysis if necessary.

12

The Respondent's decision on the complaint was conveyed to the Applicant's solicitors in a letter dated 12th April, 1995 in the following terms:-

"The report of the investigating officer appointed to investigate your complaint and the relevant comments and recommendations of the Chief Executive have been considered carefully by the Board. The Board is of opinion that the Board will take no further action in thematter."

13

By letter dated 14th June, 1995 the Applicant's solicitor queried the basis on which the complaint could be vexatious and threatened to seek judicial review of the conduct of the Respondent if reasons were not advanced as to the determination. By letter dated 5th July, 1995 the Deputy Chief executive of the Respondent responded as follows:-

"The Board's Decision that your client's complaint was vexatious and accordingly inadmissible in accordance with section 4(3)(a)(vi) of the Act was arrived at under section 7(3) of the Act following consideration of the report of a thorough investigation into thematter.

In the final paragraph of your letter you requested the reason for the Board's decision. The position is that decisions on complaints are taken at meetings ofthe Board. The decisions of the Board are recorded in each case, but not the reasoning behind any particular decision. The most that can be said relative to any decision is that it was arrived at on the basis of the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation. In this case, the investigation was particularly thorough, involving not one but two investigating officers, the second appointed to deal with a number of queries which arose in the matter after the retirement of the first from the Force.

I should also mention that the Board treats as confidential the reports, statements, etc.,...

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