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Supreme Court of Ireland Decisions
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Cite as:  IESC 68,  2 ILRM 208,  3 IR 221
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Judgment Title: Phipps -v- Judge Hogan
Composition of Court: Murray C.J., Denham J., Hardiman J., Geoghegan J., Fennelly J.
Judgment by: Hardiman J.
Status of Judgment: Approved
THE SUPREME COURT
JUDGE DESMOND HOGAN and THE DIRECTOR
JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Hardiman delivered the 20th day of December, 2007.
The appellant, Mr. Phipps is the defendant in a pending criminal case in which he is charged with three offences against various provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Acts. One of these is an offence contrary to s.15A of that Act, as inserted by s.4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1999.
The applicant was brought to the District Court on foot of these charges. The charges were however struck out by that court when the prosecution failed to produce the necessary documents on time. At a later date which does not appear with precision from the papers before the Court, he was re-charged. On this occasion the “Book of Evidence” was duly produced and he was sent forward for trial to the Circuit Criminal Court. The date on which this occurred, likewise, does not appear from the papers.
On the 9th July, 2003, the case against the applicant was listed in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court before his Honour Judge Hogan on foot of a Notice of Motion filed on behalf of the applicant on the 27th June, 2003. This Notice of Motion sought:
On the 3rd July, 2003 in the Circuit Court it was submitted by prosecuting counsel that the Notice of Motion was insufficient and that the prosecutor was entitled to be put on notice of the specific ground upon which the application to dismiss would be based. There does not appear to have been any formal order of the Circuit Court drawn up in respect of the proceedings on that day but the applicant and respondent in the present proceedings seem to be at one that, as the applicant puts it, the learned judge “ruled that I was required to give notice to [the Director of Public Prosecutions] of the grounds upon which the application would be argued in advance of the hearing of the application”. In the affidavit of Una Duggans sworn on behalf of the prosecutor, it is said that the learned judge “held that this was a new procedure which did not entitle the defence to ambush the prosecution as in the course of a criminal trial and consequently the grounds for application should be set down.”
The applicants subsequently sought judicial review of this decision. He was granted leave to do so by the High Court (O’Donovan J.) by order dated the 20th October, 2003 on the grounds that:
(2) That the provisions of s.4E of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967, must be strictly construed since it is a criminal statute and the Section makes no provision for notice of the kind which has been required in these proceedings.
(3) That the first-named respondent acted ultra vires in requiring the applicant to give notice to the DPP of the grounds upon which he intended to rely in support of the application that he wished to make pursuant to the provision of s.4E(1) of the Act of the 1967 Act.”
The said s.4E, insofar as relevant, provides as follows:
(2) Notice of an application under subsection (1) shall be given to the prosecutor not less than fourteen days before the date on which the application is due to be heard.
(3) The trial court may, in the interests of justice, determine that less than 14 days notice of an application under subsection (1) may be given to the prosecutor.
(4) If it appears to the trial court that there is not a sufficient case to put the accused on trial for any charge to which the application relates, the court shall dismiss the charge.
(5)(a) Oral evidence may be given on an application under subsection (1) only if it appears to the trial court that such evidence is required in the interests of justice.
(7) Where a charge is dismissed by the trial Court under subsection (4), the prosecutor may, within 21 days after the dismissal date, appeal against the dismissal t the Court of Criminal Appeal.
(8) On an appeal under subsection (7), the Court of Criminal Appeal may-
(a) affirm the decision of the trial court, or
(b) quash the decision of the trial court, in which case the trial of the accused may proceed as if the charge had never been dismissed.”
The Act of 1999 abolished provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967 which provided for a preliminary examination of indictable charges in the District Court. Up to the passing of the 1999 Act it was possible for a defendant to have the charges against him dismissed in the District Court if that Court was not satisfied that there was a sufficient case to put him on trial. Although that procedure has been abolished, the Act of 1999 conferred certain compensating entitlements on defendants, which were however required to be exercised in the court of trial rather than in the District Court. The right to apply for the dismissal of the charges pursuant to s.4E is one such entitlement. These are important rights. Quite clearly (to speak only of the right to apply to have a charge dismissed) if there is a single point which may avail the defendant to the extent of fatally undermining the charges against him, it is a great advantage to have this determined before the trial itself. Disposal in this way represents a major saving of time and expense to both sides, avoids inconvenience to witnesses and jury persons, brings a rapid end to the defendant’s anxieties (which in this case must be considerable since one of the charges the applicant is facing carries a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment) and brings about a resolution of the action between the prosecutor and the defendant at the earliest possible time, freeing up Court time for other cases.
There is, accordingly, no doubt but that the applicant was entitled to seek the relief which he sought from the learned Circuit Court judge. The question is whether the latter was entitled to require him to give advance notice of the grounds upon which the application would be urged.
The applicant’s rights arise from the statutory provision already quoted. This provision requires that the prosecutor be put on notice of the defendant’s application to dismiss but does not itself require that notice of the grounds of this application be given. The statute does not of course exclude this possibility either. The applicant’s case is put in this way: he has an undoubted right to have his motion to dismiss determined and there is no statutory authority for the proposition that he has to give advance notice of the grounds of his application. The respondent, however, argues that the requirement to give notice of the application would be “meaningless” unless it (that is, the notice) incorporated the grounds of the application. It is also argued that the learned judge was entitled to organise the business in his court in the most efficient manner as he sees fit and that this extends to a power to order a statement of grounds.
The High Court decision.
In the Hughes case, submissions, evidently substantial ones, were made to the learned District Justice during the preliminary examination on behalf of the applicant. The prosecution did not make submissions but sought an adjournment. Between the date on which the submissions were made and the adjourned date a “Notice of Additional Evidence” was served purporting to comprise additional testimony as to the value of the drugs in question in that case. On judicial review it was held that:
In this case the learned trial judge proceeded to make further finding about the procedure required by the 1999 Act. He pointed out (p.8 of the judgment) that an accused person under the preliminary examination system was “entitled to make an application in the District Court that he be discharged as to the offence under examination on the ground that the evidence before the District Court did not disclose a sufficient case to put him on trial for the offence with which he had been charged”. As far as I am aware, there is no reported case under the 1967 Act regime where a defendant exercising this right was compelled to give advance notice of his submissions. The statutory provision under the present law provides a right to apply to the trial court to dismiss one or more of the charges preferred. It goes on to provide, at subsection (4):
The provisions of the 1967 Act as amended do not affect and in particular do not diminish the right of an accused person to the presumption of innocence at all times within the criminal trial process (including the procedures preliminary to the trial itself).
Accordingly, s.4E of the 1967 Act must be construed as conferring upon a person charged with an indictable offence the right to apply to the trial court for the purpose of having one or more of the charges preferred against him or her dismissed.
Thereupon the prosecutor is required to satisfy the trial court that the evidence upon which the State will rely is sufficient ‘… to put the accused on trial in respect of the charge to which the application relates.’
This applies notwithstanding the fact that the application to dismiss pursuant to s.4E will invariably have been made by or on behalf of the accused person.”
Accordingly, the position is that there is no express power to order a defendant applying for dismiss to give advance notice on the grounds upon which he relies, and no statutory obligation on him to give such notice. The Director strenuously argues that there is however an implied entitlement to require notice of the grounds of the application. This arises, he says, in one or two alternative ways. Firstly he contends that it arises from the requirement to give notice: this, he says, should be deemed to include a requirement to give notice of the grounds of the application, and not merely of the application itself. Secondly, and quite separately, he argues that there is a power to require the defendant to give notice of the grounds of his application to dismiss as part of the inherent powers of the judge to manage proceedings in his own court.
I have no doubt that any trial judge, sitting with or without a jury, is entitled to exercise a wide, inherent, and discretionary jurisdiction to control the proceedings in his court. But the nature of this jurisdiction will vary with the nature of the proceedings before him. The learned trial judge in his judgment went on to quote the English case of Ashmore v. Lloyds  1 WLR 446 referring to the practice of the (U.K.) Commercial Court. I have no doubt that this passage, and the conclusions he draws from it (at pp12-16 of the judgment) constitute a lucid exposition of the power of a judge in civil cases. Specifically, it may be perfectly proper for a judge in a civil case to order a party, be he plaintiff or defendant, to state precisely what his case is in advance. In the Commercial Court here, this extends to a power to order the production of witness statement of evidence. This is what is envisaged in the learned trial judge’s citation from the English case mentioned above:
It must also be borne in mind that the prosecution, who have full access to the facts of this case as the gardaí see them and the Garda summary of the case and recommendations, have decided to bring certain charges against the applicant. They have had their Book of Evidence settled by counsel and, presumably, had proofs advised by Senior Counsel. All this makes it unlikely in the extreme that they will be in any way embarrassed by the need to demonstrate how their evidence amounts to a sufficient case to put the applicant on trial. If any such embarrassment did arise, no doubt they could apply to the learned trial judge for an adjournment and, if appropriate, he would grant this request. Like the defendant, the prosecution are, of course, subject to the coercion of the facts of the individual case and if there is some inherent problem in the case they may be unsuccessful on the motion. But they would have to encounter this difficulty any way, at the close of the prosecution case at a trial. Under the s.4E procedure, moreover, they have the right of appeal.
For these reasons I would not consider that s.4E, or the inherent jurisdiction of the Court, provides a jurisdiction, expressly or impliedly, to require the defendant to give advance notice on the grounds of the present application. I would accordingly allow the appeal and quash the order of the learned Circuit judge requiring such disclosure.