Thomas v Commissoner of an Garda Síochána

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMr. Justice Mahon
Judgment Date06 July 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] IECA 203
Docket NumberRecord No. 2015 518
Date06 July 2016

[2016] IECA 203

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Mahon J.

Record No. 2015 518

Peart J.

Irvine J.

Mahon J.

Between/
Catherine Jules Thomas
Plaintiff/Appellant
- and -
The Commissioner of An Garda Síochána

and

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Forum, Ireland

and

The Attorney General
Defendants/Respondents

Preliminary issues ? Damages ? Unlawful arrest ? Respondents seeking order directing that certain issues be the subject of preliminary trial ? Whether appellant?s claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution

Facts: The appellant, Ms Thomas, claimed that she was maliciously and wrongfully arrested, initially on 10th February 1997, and subsequently on 22nd September 2000, and 22nd September 2002, on suspicion of the murder of Ms du Plantier on 23rd December 1996. The appellant?s arrest and interrogation was closely associated with the arrest and interrogation of her partner, Mr Bailey, whom the Gardaí suspected was implicated in Ms du Plantier?s murder.?The appellant claimed damages (including aggravated or exemplary damages) for?inter alia?unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, conspiracy, personal injury and breach of her constitutional rights. The respondents, the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Forum, Ireland and the Attorney General, included in their defence a plea that the appellant?s claim was barred by virtue of the operation of the Statute of Limitations, and that the appellant was guilty of inordinate and inexcusable delay. By order of the High Court (Hedigan J) dated 6th October 2015 it was directed that certain issues arising in the proceedings be the subject of preliminary trial namely whether the appellant?s claim was barred by operation of the Statue of Limitations and/or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and/or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the claim related to: (1) the taking of a hair sample from the plaintiff in early 1997 including all alleged actions of the respondents associated therewith; (2) the arrest and detention of the appellant on 10th February 1997 including all alleged actions of the respondents associated therewith; (3) the allegation that the respondents were the source of certain rumours alleged to have been in circulation as pleaded at para. 9 of the Statement of Claim; (4) all and any phone calls allegedly made by the respondents to the appellant as pleaded at para. 9; (5) the allegations that the respondents inappropriately offered substantial sums of monies and other inducements to one Mr Graham as pleaded at para. 9; (6) the search of the appellant?s home by the respondents on 21st September 2000, including all alleged actions of the respondents associated therewith; (7) the arrest and detention of the appellant on 22nd September 2000 including all alleged actions of the respondents associated therewith. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against that order and judgment of Hedigan J on the grounds that: (a) the conspiracy alleged was ongoing; (b) the resolution of the conspiracy claim was dependent upon a full plenary hearing of the evidence related to all, or almost all, the issues arising in the proceedings, and it was therefore inappropriate that the trial of such preliminary issues be ordered; (c) the determination of the directed preliminary issues would have no positive or practical consequences for either the appellant or the respondents irrespective of the outcome therefrom; (d) it would not be possible to agree facts to facilitate a preliminary trial of issues, such was the nature and complexity of those issues, and the evidence required to be heard to determine them.

Held by Mahon J that Hedigan J, having heard the detailed submissions made to him, exercised his discretion in directing a preliminary trial of certain issues. Mahon J noted that Hedigan J did so with the considerable benefit of having heard detailed evidence over a prolonged period in Mr Bailey?s action, a case which in broad terms and in many respects, involved similar evidence to the appellant?s case, and also with the knowledge of a wide range of other relevant matters as a result of the fact that he case managed both actions. Thus Mahon J held that Hedigan J was particularly well placed to assess the likely benefit of directing the trial of the issues as sought by the respondents. Referring to?Collins v The Minister for Justice?[2014] IECA 27, Mahon J held that an appellate court should, in such circumstances, accord due deference to the decision of a trial judge made in the exercise of his or her discretion.

Mahon J held that he would dismiss the appeal.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Mahon delivered on the 6th day of day of July 2016
1

By order of the High Court (Hedigan J.), dated 6th October 2015 (perfected 7th October 2015), it was directed that certain issues arising in these proceedings be the subject of preliminary trial namely:-

(1) Whether the plaintiff's claim was barred by operation of the Statue of Limitations and / or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and / or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the said claim relates to matters touching upon and concerning the taking of a hair sample from the plaintiff in early 1997 including all alleged actions of the defendants associated therewith.

(2) Whether the plaintiff's claim is statue barred by operation of the Statute of Limitations and / or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and / or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the said claim relates to matters touching upon and concerning the arrest and detention of the plaintiff on 10th February 1997 including all alleged actions of the defendants associated therewith.

(3) Whether the plaintiff's claim is barred by operation of the Statute of Limitations and/ or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and / or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the said claim relates to matters touching upon and concerning the allegation that the defendants were the source of certain ?rumours? alleged to have been in circulation as pleaded at para. 9 of the Statement of Claim herein.

(4) Whether the plaintiff's claim is barred by operation of the Statute of Limitations and / or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and / or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the said claim relates to all and any phone calls allegedly made by the defendants to the plaintiff as pleaded at para. 9 of the Statement of Claim herein.

(5) Whether the plaintiff's claim is barred by operation of the Statute of Limitations and / or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and / or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the said claim relates to the allegations that the defendants inappropriately offered substantial sums of monies and other inducements to Martin Graham as pleaded at para. 9 of the Statement of Claim herein.

(6) Whether the plaintiff's claim is barred by operation of the Statute of Limitations and / or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and / or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the said claim relates to the search of the plaintiff's home by the defendants on 21st September 2000, including all alleged actions of the defendants associated therewith.

(7) Whether the plaintiff's claim is barred by operation of the Statute of Limitations and / or whether the claim should be dismissed for want of prosecution and / or for inordinate and inexcusable delay insofar as the said claim relates to matters touching upon and concerning the arrest and detention of the plaintiff on 22nd September 2000 including all alleged actions of the defendants associated therewith.

2

The costs of the application were reserved to the hearing of the preliminary issue.

3

It was further ordered that any application by the plaintiff to amend the pleadings herein be issued within two weeks of the date hereof. Such an application was brought within the time specified and is currently awaiting determination before the High Court.

4

This is the appellant's appeal against the said order and the judgment of Hedigan J. dated 9th October 2015 delivered ex tempore following extensive oral submissions from both parties.

5

The background to these proceedings is, in general terms, well known publically and is shared to a significant extent with separate High Court proceedings as between the appellant's partner, Mr. Ian Bailey, and the same defendants. Those proceedings concluded unsuccessfully for Mr. Bailey in the High Court in 2015 after a lengthy jury trial and are currently the subject of an appeal to this court. It is nevertheless appropriate that a brief account of the salient facts of the plaintiff's claim which commenced by way of plenary summons on 16th May 2007, be set out.

6

The appellant claims that she was maliciously and wrongfully arrested, initially on 10th February 1997, and subsequently on 22nd September 2000, and 22nd September 2002, on suspicion of the murder of Sophie Tuscan du Plantier on 23rd December 1996. Ms. du Plantier was a French national with a holiday home near Schull in Co. Cork in which her body was discovered. The appellant's home was, and remains, in the same general area. The appellant's arrest and interrogation, which she maintains was conducted in an aggressive and intimidatory matter, was closely associated with the arrest and interrogation of her partner, Mr. Bailey, whom the gardaí suspected was implicated in Ms. du Plantier's murder. Neither the appellant nor Mr. Bailey has ever been charged with the murder, or indeed, with any offence connected therewith.

7

The appellant claims damages (including aggravated or exemplary...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 cases
  • Gannon Maguire v O'Callaghan
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 6 October 2020
    ...is a high threshold to be reached before this Court should interfere with this discretion. Thomas v. Commissioner of An Garcia Siochéna [2016] IECA 203, confirms the preliminary issue procedure is an ‘order made in the ordinary course of the management of litigation’ with which the appellat......
  • Tom O'Brien and Hilary Larkin v Martin Meehan (Otherwise Martin J. Meehan)
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 20 July 2021
    ...to adjourn a recusal motion, generally, with liberty to re-enter. Similarly, Mahon J. in Thomas v. Commissioner of an Garda Síochána [2016] IECA 203 accepted that an appellate court retains the jurisdiction to review case management directions but observed that generally it is “slow to do s......
  • Elliott v ACC Bank Plc
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 13 October 2020
    ...expeditiously and inexpensively as possible. Ashmore was also referred to by this Court in Thomas v. Commissioner of An Garda Síochána [2016] IECA 203. In that case, Mahon J. dismissed the appeal of a High Court order directing a preliminary trial of certain issues, holding that an appellat......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT