Taylor v DPP

 
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[2017] IEHC 729

THE HIGH COURT

JUDICIAL REVIEW

Meenan J.

[2016 908 J.R.]

BETWEEN
VINCENT TAYLOR
APPLICANT
AND
THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
RESPONDENT

Crime and Sentencing – S. 2 of the Criminal Justice (Assault) Act, 1951 – Hybrid Offence – Certiorari – S.3 of the Non-Fatal Offences the Person Act, 1997 – Breach of fair procedures – Summary trial – Guilty plea

Facts: The applicant sought an order of certiorari for quashing the decision of the District Judge to return the applicant for trial on indictment before the Circuit Court. The applicant contended that since the District Judge had initially accepted jurisdiction and decided to deal his case summarily, the learned Judge could not send the case to the Circuit Court as the applicant had pleaded guilty before the said Judge. The applicant also alleged breach of fair procedures in the manner the learned District Court Judge conducted the hearing.

Mr. Justice Meenan granted the relief of certiorari to the applicant. The Court also prohibited the trial of the applicant pending before the Circuit Criminal Court. The Court observed that the learned District Court Judge was in breach of fair procedures. The Court followed the judgment of the Supreme Court in Ciaran Feeney v. District Justice John Clifford [1989] I.R. 668. The Court held that once the accused had pleaded guilty for a minor offence, which was fit to be tried summarily, the District Judge did not have any power to send the matter to the Circuit Court for trial on indictment.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Meenan delivered on the 10th day of November, 2017.
Background
1

The applicant was charged with assault causing harm, contrary to s.3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997, on the 29th November, 2015.

2

The offence is a so-called ‘hybrid offence’ which may be prosecuted either summarily in the District Court or on indictment in the Circuit Court. Further, the offence is a ‘scheduled offence’ within the meaning and for the purposes of s. 2 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1951 so that the District Court may try, summarily, a person charged with that offence if, inter alia, the district judge is of the opinion that the facts proved or alleged constitute a minor offence fit to be so tried.

3

On 5th April, 2016 the applicant was brought before a sitting of Kilkenny District Court and charged with the offence. A medical report on the injured party's injuries was awaited and the case was adjourned to 3rd May, 2016.

4

On 3rd May, 2016 the District Court judge heard the alleged facts of the case and also had available to him a medical report prepared by Dr. David Maritz. The district judge then accepted jurisdiction to deal with the case and it was adjourned to 7th June, 2016.

5

Following a further adjournment, the case was adjourned to 21st June, 2016. On that date, the applicant pleaded guilty before the District Court judge who directed the preparation of a probation and welfare report and a victim impact statement. The matter was adjourned to 13th September, 2016 for sentence.

6

On the adjourned date, the District Court judge was made aware of the contents of the victim impact statement and he indicated that he was no longer prepared to accept jurisdiction and adjourned the case to 18th October, 2016 for service of a book of evidence. Subsequently, the District Court judge returned the applicant for trial before the Circuit Criminal Court, South Eastern Circuit, County of Kilkenny.

7

The respondent consented to the applicant being sent forward to the Circuit Court on a signed plea of guilty. The applicant did not sign any such plea.

8

On 5th December, 2016 the applicant was granted leave to apply by way of application for judicial review for the following reliefs:-

(i) An order of certiorari quashing the decision of the learned District Court judge for the City and County of Kilkenny, made on 18th October, 2016 to return the applicant for trial before the Circuit Criminal Court, South Eastern Circuit, County of Kilkenny;

(ii) An order of prohibition, prohibiting a trial currently pending before the Circuit Criminal Court, South Eastern Circuit, County of Kilkenny, in which the applicant is accused of assaulting a named individual on 29th November, 2015, causing him harm contrary to s. 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997;

(iii) An injunction restraining the respondent from proceeding with the prosecution and/or trial of the applicant in respect of the alleged offence;

(iv) A stay on the proceedings pending determination of the application for judicial review;

(v) Further and other relief.

Issue to be determined
9

There is, essentially, one issue which this Court has to determine; namely, whether a District Court judge is entitled, after a plea of guilty has been entered, to change his decision to deal with the case summarily and to direct that the applicant be tried on indictment.

Submissions of the applicant
10

The applicant submits that the critical factor in this case was the entering of a guilty plea. Following this, the only matter for the District Court was one of sentence. In support of this, the applicant...

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