|[Home] [Databases] [World Law] [Multidatabase Search] [Help] [Feedback]|
Irish Court of Criminal Appeal
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> Irish Court of Criminal Appeal >> D.P.P.-v- Eamon Matthews  IECCA 23 (29 March 2007)
Cite as:  IECCA 23
[New search] [Context] [Printable version] [Help]
Judgment Title: D.P.P.-v- Eamon Matthews
Composition of Court: Macken J., Herbert J., Haugh J.
Judgment by: Macken J.
Status of Judgment: Approved
Outcome: Refuse Section 29 application
THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEAL
Record No. 236/04Macken J.
THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
RespondentJudgment of the Court delivered on the 29th day of March 2007 by Macken, J.
1 On the 7th December 2004 the Applicant was convicted by the Special Criminal Court of the offence of membership of an unlawful organization, after a hearing which lasted several days, and upon conviction, was sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment. From that conviction, the Applicant lodged an application for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence. By a decision of this court handed down on the 14th July 2006, the application for leave to appeal against conviction was refused on all of the grounds raised.
2 By notice of motion dated the 28th July 2006 and filed on the 3rd November 2006, application was made for a certificate for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court pursuant to Section 29 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 (“the Act of 1924”). By Notice of Motion dated the 28th November 2006, the Applicant (described as the Appellant in both motions) applied to this court for relief in the form of a judgment in respect of an argument raised at the hearing of the application for leave to appeal, which he contends had not been dealt with by the court in its judgment. Both applications came on for hearing on the 27th November 2006. At the suggestion of the Court, outline written submissions were filed by both parties, which were of considerable assistance to the Court.
3 It is proposed to deal with the application for a S. 29 Certificate for leave to appeal first. On this application, it is submitted that three questions ought to be certified to the Supreme Court, arising out of the above judgment delivered on the 14th July 2006. The first two are as follows:
1. Whether a bare opinion belief, unsupported by identifiable factual material, subject only to the criterion that it be held by a member of An Garda Siochana not below the rank of Chief Superintendent, can be given any evidential weight in a prosecution for membership of an illegal organization?
2. Is the undoubted restriction to cross examine on the basis of the opinion in breach of Article 6 of the Convention of Human Rights?
4 The Applicant in his written submissions and at the oral hearing quite properly combines the argument on these two questions, since in reality they arise out of the same issue, namely the status, in the most general sense, of the belief evidence of a Chief Superintendent of An Garda Siochana. The third proposed question is a stand alone one.
5 Section 29 of the Act of 1924, in the version in force at the relevant date, reads as follows:
7 The Applicant argues that the above questions arise out of this Court’s decision on two of the grounds upon which leave to appeal was sought. Firstly, they arise out of its decision on ground 6, which alleged that the trial was not fair in law because there was no opportunity to test the basis for the opinion of a Chief Superintendent of An Garda Siochana as to the applicant’s membership of an illegal organization, this witness having claimed privilege over the sources of information which led to his holding the belief which he did, on the grounds that to disclose the same would, inter alia, endanger life. Secondly, it is argued that the two questions also arise out of this Court’s decision on Ground 8. That ground alleged that the trial court had erred in law in holding that the failure of the garda witness to disclose those sources was not a breach of the Applicant’s right to a fair trial in accordance with Article 6(3) of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”), as reflected in Irish law in the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 (“the Convention Act”).
8 In its judgment of the 14th July 2006 this court found, as is clear from the extract from the judgment cited by the Applicant in his written submissions, that the restriction on the ability of the defence to cross examine the chief superintendent as to the sources for his belief was not, ipso facto, a failure to comply with Article 6 of the Convention. The court also had regard to a recent decision of the Supreme Court in DPP v Martin Kelly  2 ILRM 321. That judgment was delivered consequent upon a question certified to that Court pursuant to S. 29 of the Act of 1924. The question was:
10 Senior counsel for the Applicant Mr. O’Higgins submits as follows. The judgment in the case of DPP v Kelly, supra., does not, in reality, deal with the questions arising in this application, due to the very limitation in the terms of the question certified in the latter case and the decision of the majority. In the course of the oral hearing, he argued that it would not have been permissible in law for the Supreme Court to have pronounced on the position arising pursuant to Article 6 of the Convention, in the context of the question actually raised and national law as it then stood, because the question posed predated the passing of the Convention Act. On the contrary, he contends that since the passing of that Act, there is now an obligation on Irish Courts, and in particular on the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Supreme Court, to apply the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, and, as here, that concerning the application of Article 6 of the Convention. Clarification by the Supreme Court, as the court of final appeal in this jurisdiction, of the position arising pursuant to the State’s obligations since the passing of the Convention Act, was necessary. Further, it is submitted that since the question posed in the DPP v Kelly, supra, case was considered to have been one of exceptional public importance, the same question, in the context of the Convention and of the Convention Act, must also be a question of exceptional public importance, which it is in the public interest to have clarified.
11 Senior counsel for the Respondent Mr. Bermingham argues to the contrary that the above case, including in particular the judgment of Fennelly, J., was germane to the matters dealt with in this Court’s decision, because in that case the Supreme Court had before it all of the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and the effect of those cases was fully argued by the parties in the course of the oral hearing before the Supreme Court, even if the question certified was by specific reference to Article 38 of the Constitution. Counsel for the Respondent in these proceedings, who was also counsel for the Respondent before the Supreme Court in the case of DPP v Kelly, supra., confirmed that all such case law was before that court.
12 The Respondent accepts that the case law of the European Court of Human Rights on Article 6 of the Convention, and its impact, was set out and relied upon only in the judgment of Fennelly J., whereas the majority decision of the Supreme Court in DPP v Kelly, supra., was silent on that case law. However,
counsel submits that if the Supreme Court majority had considered that there was any divergence between the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and Irish law on the question of the rights arising pursuant to Article 6 of the Convention, it is inconceivable that the members of the Supreme Court would not have said so, in a case touching upon those very issues. Further, it is argued that had the members of the Court who delivered the majority judgment been in disagreement with the analysis of the case law on Article 6 of the Convention found in the judgment of Fennelly J., it is equally inconceivable that they would have remained silent on the matter. It is therefore submitted that, even if the majority judgment in the case did not pronounce on the effects of the Convention and of Article 6 thereof, nevertheless the assenting judgment of Fennelly, J., and in particular the analysis of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights found in that judgment, should be accepted by this court as correctly reflecting the law on Article 6 in this jurisdiction.
13 This Court has verified that, in the case of DPP v Kelly, supra., the legal submissions filed both on behalf of the Appellant and on behalf of the Respondent relied, inter alia, on the Convention and on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, including that relating to Article 6 thereof. The court notes also the confirmation by counsel for the Respondent that this case law, among case law from several other jurisdictions, was also opened and relied upon, in the course of the oral hearing of the matter before the Supreme Court.
14 The Court agrees with the submission of counsel for the Respondent that it would be wholly unrealistic to interpret the majority judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of DPP v Kelly, supra., in the isolated manner suggested by counsel for the Applicant. The very detailed and particular analysis of Fennelly, J., on the rights in question, which considered, inter alia, case law from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as that of the European Court of Human Rights, cannot be considered as an incidental adjunct to his assenting judgment.
15 The manner in which a reservation to the content of another judgment is normally expressed by a member of the Supreme Court is well established, but there is no such reservation found in any contribution of any member of the Court who formed the majority. Further, it is, as the Respondent rightly contends, inconceivable that if the Supreme Court considered there was a material divergence between Irish law and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights on the question of the right to cross-examine, it would have refrained from saying so. Indeed, well prior to the passing of the Convention Act, case law of the European Court of Human Rights was considered by Irish courts in many cases. It is not necessary for this court to cite in detail those cases. The influence of those cases, even prior to the passing of the Convention is well described in the judgment of Fennelly, J. in the case of Glencar Exploration Plc v Mayo County Council  1 ILRM 481, in which he stated:
17 That being so, the question which arises for consideration is whether, notwithstanding the foregoing, the questions now posed should nevertheless be referred to the Supreme Court on the basis that they constitute points of law of exceptional public importance, which it is in the public interest to have determined, given that the purpose of the S.29 is essentially appellate in nature and for the purpose of doing justice in a particular case. In this application, it is not submitted on behalf of the Applicant that the correct position in law under the Convention, or pursuant to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, is different to that set forth in the judgment of Fennelly, J. Nor is it contended that his analysis is in any way flawed in its interpretation of the case law of that Court actually invoked or cited. Nor is it suggested that there is other relevant case law which would in any way undermine the analysis made, or the findings in the judgment of Fennelly, J. arising from that analysis. Nor, finally, is there any suggestion that the fundamental guarantee to life found in Article 2 of the Convention, being the basis, inter alia, upon which the claim to privilege was invoked in the course of the trial, is, according to any case law of the European Court of Human Rights, to be subsumed in all circumstances to the right in an accused to cross-examine a witness in accordance with the protections accorded by Article 6 of the Convention.
18 The same comments might also apply to the question of the value or evidential weight to be given to the belief evidence of a Chief Superintendent. The decision of this court on the 14th July 2006 makes it clear that the issue of the evidential value attaching to such evidence has been determined, in domestic law, for some time. It is not necessary for the purposes of this judgment to repeat what was stated in the decision. No submissions are made in this application, in support of an argument that the decision of the court in DPP v Kelly, supra. or indeed the earlier decision on that issue in O’Leary v Ireland  1 IR 102, are, in light of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, no longer good law.
19 In light of the foregoing, the Court does not consider that the Applicant has established that either question sought to be certified is one of exceptional importance within Section 29 of the Act of 1924.
20 Turning now to the proposed third question, this is set out in the following terms:
22 As a general principle, where a court proposes to base its decision, inter alia, on a case determined since an oral hearing had taken place, it may be appropriate that the parties should have an opportunity to make submissions, if they wish, on the possible significance of the judgment in question. In the instant case, the court has had regard to the following material factors which required to be taken into account in deciding whether this should be done. The fact that a certificate had been granted in the case of DPP v Kelly, supra., pursuant to the provisions of Section 29 of the Act of 1924 and that judgment was awaited on that question was widely known, and particularly so by those practising in the area of criminal law. The fact that reliance was also placed on that judgment of the Supreme Court in another case determined by this Court, where judgment was also delivered subsequent to oral hearing, namely, DPP v Birney & Ors (unreported, CCA., 12 May 2006), without the parties having been further heard prior to the delivery of the judgment. Also, the fact that the parties in the instant application, despite the importance which the applicant now claims to attach to it, did not move the court to be heard, a request which, if made, would have been readily granted.
23 As to the second case, Moran v Lynch, supra., this was a judgment containing a full history and a detailed analysis of all of the relevant case law concerning issue estoppel in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and in Ireland, and which found that issue estoppel does not exist in this jurisdiction, either in favour of the prosecution or in favour of an accused. The decision of the Supreme Court on the issue could scarcely have been more definitive.
24 In relation to the foregoing two cases, the position is that the law has not changed, but has been restated in the majority judgment in DPP v Kelly, supra. As to the assenting judgment of Fennelly, J., his review and analysis of the law, having regard to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights constituted ample guidance for this court in its judgment. The law has been settled in clear terms in the case of Moran v Lynch and Anor., supra. Nevertheless, the existence of those factors does not necessarily constitute in all circumstances valid reasons for the parties to an oral hearing not to have had an opportunity to make further submissions or to comment on those cases prior to judgment. So, for example, where the Supreme Court has materially changed existing law in the area of sexual abuse of young children, that court, in light of the substantial and significant changes made in its judgment in DPP v H (unrept’d)  1IESC 65, has invited further submissions from parties who had already been heard, prior to delivering judgment in those cases.
25 In light of the foregoing, it is appropriate to consider whether, not having had an opportunity to be heard on the cases upon which the court relied, the Applicant is or was in some material way disadvantaged, and if so, whether in consequence the question proposed raises a point of law of exceptional public importance which it is in the public interest to refer for the opinion of the Supreme Court. As to the question of any disadvantage to the Applicant, counsel did not claim any such disadvantage. Rather, the argument actually put forward is that it is in the interests of justice that the question be certified for the opinion of the Supreme Court, because it is “inappropriate that a judgment might be open to the interpretation that it was reached in private or without hearing the arguments of the parties in relation to the same”.
26 As is clear from the above argument on the first two questions, the Applicant contends that the decision in the case of DPP v Kelly, supra., is not relevant to the matters at issue in the present proceedings, or to his grounds of appeal, for the reasons set out above, which do not need to be repeated. In the case of the second judgment it is not suggested either that the Applicant or his counsel was in any way disadvantaged.
27 That being so, it is not possible to conclude that the question proposed is a question of law of exceptional public importance, in the context of the present case. The case law in particular the Supreme Court judgment in DPP v Patrick Higgins (unrept’d, Sup. Ct. 22 November 1985) makes it clear that the procedure under Section 29 is primarily appellate in nature, and to do justice in a particular case, and is not advisory in nature. Nor does the court consider that even if such a question could arise, taking the applicant’s case at its highest, would it be in the public interest to certify such a question pursuant to S.29 of the Act of 1924.
28 However, the Court considers that in all appropriate cases, it would be both prudent and desirable that parties be invited to make submissions on a judgment delivered between an oral hearing and the determination of an application, if the court intends to invoke in a material way, the findings in such judgment(s), or any change in principles established in such a judgment, and depending of course on the nature of the judgment itself. Since the parties to the action will not know whether such is the likely intention of the court, while they may themselves invite the court to hear them, there could not be any onus on them to do so.
29 In light of the foregoing, the Court refuses the applications made on the motion for a certificate for leave to appeal.
The Second Motion
30 The court now turns to the second motion. As mentioned previously this motion seeks judgment on an argument which the Applicant contends was not determined in this Court’s judgment delivered of the 14th July 2006. The Respondent does not accept that this is so.
31 This issue concerns a decision of the court of trial on the characterisation by it of certain evidence adduced by the prosecution in the course of the trial, as “capable of having an innocent explanation”, in the context of one charge and the consequences of that characterization in the context of a second, unrelated, charge. The Applicant claims that the arguments put forward on his behalf for leave to appeal on this ground were not determined in the decision of this court
32 Put briefly, the background is as follows. The Applicant was tried on two offences. One was possession of explosives, and the second was membership of an illegal organisation. In respect of the first offence, the trial court dismissed the charge, stating that the evidence on this charge was largely circumstantial and capable of an innocent interpretation. Counsel for the Applicant submits that his argument on the application for leave to appeal, was (a) that it was illogical for the trial court to have found that if the evidence adduced in the course of the explosives trial was found by the trial court not to be probative of possession of explosives, it could nevertheless to be held to be consistent with membership of an illegal organization; (b) either the evidence was capable of innocent interpretation or it was not, and (c) that if the evidence was innocent in respect of one charge, that same evidence could not point to an involvement in membership of an illegal organization, the subject of the other charge.
33 Counsel for the Applicant contends that the decision of this court did not deal with this aspect of his application for leave, and that the Applicant is entitled to have a ruling on his arguments, based on the decision of this court in The People (DPP) v Laide, (unreported, CCA, 29th June 2005). Counsel for the Applicant also invokes the case of DPP v D O’S, (unreported, CCA 28th July 2004), in which the court substituted a judgment of that date for its earlier decision of the 27th May 2004.
34 It is argued that, having regard to the circumstances in which the applicant, acquitted of one charge on the basis of the evidence adduced being “capable of an innocent interpretation”, was nevertheless subsequently convicted by the trial court on another charge, on the basis of the same evidence, this court ought to exercise its jurisdiction to consider the extant point made, and should decide this in the applicant’s favour.
35 The court is satisfied that on the above referred to jurisprudence, invoked by counsel for the Applicant, the court may entertain an application such as this.
36 This application depends on a review of the relevant grounds raised by the Applicant in his application for leave to appeal, and on the decision of this court on those grounds.
37 In the Notice of Application for Leave to Appeal and in the written submissions filed on behalf of the Applicant on the 22 November 2005, Ground 4 is stated to be the following:
38 As to Ground 4, this ground raised a very net legal issue. That net issue was whether issue estoppel in favour of an accused exists in Irish law. That was the only issue set forth in the Application for Leave to Appeal and in the written submissions. While the question of issue estoppel might not have been fully, or definitively, determined at the time of the oral hearing in this case, the position was put beyond doubt by the decision of the Supreme Court in Moran v Lynch, supra. Its ruling that there is no room for issue estoppel in criminal law in Ireland in favour either of an accused or of the prosecution, is clearly stated in the final paragraphs of that judgment, in the following terms: “Given that mutuality is at the heart of issue estoppel, and having
I see no reason grounded in public policy for granting an accused an unreciprocated advantage if issue estoppel does not generate mutuality. In truth, a disservice is done to the integrity and reputation of the criminal process if the scales of justice may be seen by the notional onlooker or by the public at large as forever tilted in favour of an accused and forever tilted against the State. In my opinion, the extension of a consideration of ‘tenderness’ in this regard to an accused, as so described by Brennan J. in Rogers v The Queen  181 C.L.R. 251, is not warranted having regard to all the other rights he properly enjoys under our criminal justice system.”
40 It was not necessary or indeed appropriate, in the context of the
actual ground raised, to address the argument(s) invoked on issue estoppel, and now sought to be the subject of a separate judgment, once it became clear that the judgment in the case of Moran v Lynch, supra. disposed of Ground 4 entirely. The arguments raised in support of the existence of issue estoppel in favour of an accused were no longer relevant to that ground, but rather had been superseded by the judgment in that case.
41 In the circumstances the question of any additional judgment in respect of those arguments does not arise.