The District Court, the European Convention on Human Rights Act, 2003 'Cause And Effect

AuthorThomas E. O'Donnell
PositionJudge of the District Court, LL.M. in International Human Rights, Diploma on the European Convention on Human Rights
2010] ECHR Act, 2003: Cause and Effect 97
In 2006, I published a paper entitled, The Constitution, the
District Court.1 In that paper I briefly explored the legal
framework of the District Court, being a court of limited and local
jurisdiction. I also examined briefly the origins of the European
Convention of Human Rights Act, 2003,2 and its incorporation
into our domestic law.
Given that the ECHR Act, 2003 is now part of our
landscape, I opined that the jurisprudence of the European Court
of Human Rights was now available and could be raised in all
courts. Suffice it to say, I urged caution, that any recourse to its
case law should be clear, cogent and above all relevant.
Perhaps, somewhat naively, I thought there would be a
plethora of ECHR jurisprudence being liberally quoted in all
courts. Alas, this was not to be. It is my experience that despite
the many recent domestic decisions involving Convention
jurisprudence, there is still a marked reluctance to use Convention
case law in the lower courts. This is somewhat puzzling when one
thinks of the enormous energy invested by lawyers in quoting
High Court decisions, when defending drink-driving cases for
Given the way the ECHR Act, 2003 is constructed, it was
always clear that the law was going to come from the top down
rather than from the bottom up. Indeed all one has to do is a trawl
through the BAILII website to realise the number of cases
* Judge of the District Court, LL.M. in International Human Rights, Diploma
on the European Convention on Human Rights. Text of a paper presented for
the Law Society Certificate in Human Rights, November 2009.
1 O’Donnell, “The Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights
Act 2003, and the District Court” [2007] 1 J.S.I.J. 137.
2 Hereinafter “the ECHR Act, 2003”.

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