Vehicle Tech Ltd v Allied Irish Banks Plc and Others

JudgeMr. Justice Hedigan
Judgment Date03 December 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] IEHC 548
CourtHigh Court
Docket Number[No. 6170 P/2008]
Date03 December 2013
Vehicle Tech Ltd v Allied Irish Banks PLC & Ors





[2013] IEHC 548

[No. 6170 P/2008]


Constitutional law – Tort – Liability of State – Liability for damages – Search of premises – Whether State liable for damages – Whether entitlement to damages – An Garda Síochána – Criminal Justice Act, 1994.

Facts The plaintiff had brought proceedings claiming that it was entitled to damages by virtue of a court ruling holding that a certain provision of an Act was declared unconstitutional. The provisions in question related to s. 31(8) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 and involved searches by the Gardaí of the plaintiff”s premises. A declaration had been made in previous proceedings that the section in question was unconstitutional. The issue of whether damages could/should be awarded as a result of such a finding. On behalf of the State it was argued that such legislation was necessary in waging battle against the financial crime of money laundering.

Held by Hedigan J in making the following order: The court would adopt the approach of Henchy J in Murphy v. Attorney General [1982] IR 241 and take a restrained approach to the issue. The plaintiff did not have an entitlement per se to an award of damages arising from the previous findings of the court regarding the unconstitutionality issue. The plaintiff could be awarded such damages as he could prove flowed from the unlawful acts of the State parties. In addition he could be awarded nominal damages or the court could find that the declaration of invalidity was sufficient remedy in the circumstances of the case.


BURNS v BANK OF IRELAND 2008 1 IR 762 2007/6/1186 2007 IEHC 318

MURPHY v AG 1982 IR 241

REDMOND v MIN FOR ENVIRONMENT & ORS (NO 2) 2006 3 IR 1 2004/44/10023 2004 IEHC 24

Mr. Justice Hedigan

The court, in this application, has been directed to determine three questions of law:


(i) whether the State, as defendants, has the entitlement to claim that the State acted lawfully under the provisions of s. 31(8) of the Criminal Justice Act1994, as amended (the Act of 1994) which, by order of Ms. Justice Laffoy, was declared unconstitutional;


(ii) whether the plaintiff is now entitled to pursue a claim based upon the abuse of a section of the Act of 1994, in this case being s. 31(8) declared unconstitutional;


(iii) whether the plaintiff as a matter of law has an entitlementper se to an award of damages arising from the findings of the court on 4th October, 2010, of unconstitutionality of s. 31(8) of the Act of 1994, or only on proof of actual damage.


2. The parties are agreed that the answer to the first question is, no.


3. The second question is as to whether the plaintiff can now pursue a claim based upon the allegations of abuse of s. 31(8) of the Act of 1994, involving gardaí who conducted a search of the premises on 10th July, 2009, and also any abuse widely practiced of the Garda Síochána of the authority given them by this section in recent years. The substantial hearing of this matter which dealt with liability has concluded. On 4th October, 2010, Laffoy J. delivered her judgment. At para. 3.3 of this judgment, she stated as follows:

"The foregoing are the only pleas in the statement of claim which, in my view, are pertinent to the reliefs claimed. There are other allegations in the statement of claim in relation to the conduct of the officers of An Garda Síochána who conducted the search of the premises of the plaintiff and its directors on 10th July, 2008. However, no cause of action is pleaded arising from those allegations. It is also pleaded that members of An Garda Síochána in recent years have extensively and unlawfully abused such authority as s. 31 (8) 'purports to give them' and three cases were cited, two which were pending in the High Court when this matter came on for hearing, the third being Burns v. Bank of Ireland [2008] 1 I.R. 762, to which I will refer later. No cause of action at the suit of the plaintiff arising from that allegation is disclosed in the statement of claim."


Later, at para. 3.8, where she dealt with the scope of the court's investigation before here, she stated:

"… when the case was being opened, the Court was informed that the parties had agreed that the Court should only determine the question of 'liability'. What that meant was the subject of controversy, which, on reading the transcript, I am not sure was satisfactorily resolved. Nonetheless, the position I am taking as to the outcome of the controversy and what the Court's task is, is that it is to determine whether the plaintiff has established an entitlement to the declaratory relief it seeks. If it has, the Court has to decide, if it is possible to do so, whether the contention of the State parties that, on the ground of public policy, the plaintiff does not have a claim in damages against either the Bank or the State parties is correct."


4. Thus, the two instances of alleged abuse by the gardaí has been considered by Laffoy J. and ruled out on the basis that, firstly, no cause of action is pleaded in respect of the searching of the premises, and secondly, no cause of action is disclosed in the statement of claim arising from the latter allegations in respect of the garda practice...

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