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Supreme Court of Ireland Decisions
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Cite as:  IESC 11
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Judgment Title: MJELR -V- Johnston
Composition of Court: Kearns J., Macken J., Finnegan J.
Judgment by: Macken J.
Status of Judgment: Approved
THE SUPREME COURT
IN THE MATTER OF THE EUROPEAN ARREST WARREST 2003
The Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform
Judgment delivered on the 12th day of March by Macken, J.
This is an appeal by the respondent/appellant against the judgment and order of the High Court (Peart, J.) made on the 27th March 2007 pursuant to which he ordered him to be surrendered to the United Kingdom on foot of a European Arrest Warrant dated the 25th July 2006, the learned trial judge having been satisfied that there were no grounds on which he should refuse to surrender the respondent/appellant.
The grounds of appeal, numbering ten in all, can readily be divided into two main groups, and these two have been addressed in detail in the written submissions filed on behalf of each party. The first group concerns the underlying domestic warrant issued in April 2001 in Scotland, and the second concerns an allegation of delay in seeking his surrender and in particular the medical (including psychiatric) condition of the respondent/appellant during that delay period. The legal bases upon which these grounds are put forward are more fully considered below.
It is appropriate to deal with the second ground first, that is to say, that of delay. This is based essentially on two arguments. The first, of a general nature, is that the respondent/appellant came to Ireland some years ago, established himself here and has set up a business and moved on with his life. It is further argued that he has suffered from a medical/psychiatric condition which has been exacerbated by the present proceedings and is allied to a fear on his part that he will, if he is returned to the United Kingdom, be attacked and tortured, as he was prior to coming to Ireland. In these circumstances it is claimed that it would be in breach of his constitutional rights arising from the very act of surrender, to grant the order sought.
Insofar as the question of delay is concerned the learned High Court judge found as follows:
As to the point of general delay since the date of commission of these offences, the respondent has not set forth in his grounding affidavit any prejudice which he says exists as to his capacity to defend himself against the charges.
The medical ground really is the only aspect of delay which can be relied upon to any extent. I am satisfied from the medical evidence that his medical condition is not of sufficient gravity to merit this court in adopting the course that it took in the SR case, where much graver circumstances existed as to the risk to the life to that respondent. So I reject the point of objection raised in relation to delay both in its general plea and by reference to the medical condition.”
Secondly, in relation to the question of general delay, a further relevant factor exists. When the alleged offences, which were for the possession, and the possession for sale, of various types of drugs including diamorphine (heroin), cannabis, ecstasy and another drug, took place in 2000, the respondent/appellant was admitted to bail. He did not meet his bail terms and failed to appear on the 9th April 2001 at the High Court in Glasgow and a warrant for his arrest was granted. Upon being granted bail, he had, on his own admission, fled to Ireland to avoid the charges and the unwanted attention of the persons who were intent on doing him harm. While he asserts that it was known he was in Ireland, there is no evidence to support this assertion other than that in the year 2005 he was stopped in Holyhead by the United Kingdom police (investigating possible terrorist activities) and gave an address in Galway. It has long been established in the case law that delay which has been caused by the actions of a person invoking delay as a ground for resisting an order cannot, in ordinary circumstances, be a valid ground to sustain the claim. In the case of the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform v Stapleton, unreported, the Supreme Court 26th July 2007, Fennelly J. said the following:
Even if the learned High Court judge could be said to have failed to have particular regard for the period of delay between when the respondent/appellant was stopped in Holyhead in 2005 and the time when the European Arrest Warrant issued in July 2006, and that period could be viewed as excessive, which I do not accept, the respondent/appellant cannot succeed on this ground, having regard to the decision of this court in the case of Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform v Gardner, unreported, Supreme Court 30th July 2007, and in particular the following statement in the judgment of Finnegan J. :
Turning now to the final aspect of the claim based on delay, that relating to the medical and/or psychiatric condition from which the respondent/appellant suffers, I am of the view that the he has made out no case on this ground either. There is no doubt, having regard to the evidence filed, that he suffers from a psychiatric condition, which is of some considerable concern to his medical team, as is evident from the psychiatric reports furnished on his behalf, and exhibited in his own affidavit. The first of these is dated November 2006, the second December 2006 and the third at the end of January 2007. It seems clear from the first of these reports that the respondent, although in the country since 2000 or 2001, does not appear to have been admitted into any psychiatric unit nor does he appear to have been the subject of any psychiatric assessment or treatment in the State in the period prior to his admission to University College Hospital in early October 2006 and his first assessment there in early November 2006, he having been arrested on foot of the European Arrest Warrant on the 31st August 2006. He was however treated previously in the United Kingdom for his psychiatric condition and/or symptoms.
It must be accepted by this court, as it was accepted by the learned High Court judge, that his medical condition is serious. Several matters are, however, of importance. Firstly, in the most recent psychiatric report dated the 29th January 2007 the consultant forensic psychiatrist opined that the respondent/ appellant “clearly understood the nature of the charges against him, was familiar with court proceedings, understood the various plea options available to him and their implications, was fit to instruct counsel, was fit to follow proceedings, and was fit to be tried”. Secondly, more than one of the reports raised the possibility that some or other of his symptoms may or appear to have been feigned. Thirdly, it was recommended that the respondent/appellant was to be treated as a vulnerable prisoner given his reported history of significant harm to himself, and a recommendation was made in the most recent report that in the event the respondent/appellant was surrendered, his psychiatric position as well as the risks to himself (such as suicide) should be communicated to the appropriate authorities in Scotland.
The learned trial judge had before him ample material upon which to reach the view that he could properly distinguish between the gravity of the medical position of the present respondent/appellant and the rather grave circumstances which existed as to the imminent risk to life of the respondent in the case of Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform v S.R., (unreported), High Court, 15th November 2005, that risk arising by virtue of the surrender itself, the High Court judge refusing, in those circumstances, to surrender Mr. R. At the time of the judgment in the present case, the decision of this Court in the appeal in the latter case had not been heard or determined.
It is telling to note the decision of this Court in its judgment on that appeal on the issue of the surrender of a person suffering from serious illness. In the latter case, the judgment of Finnegan, J. found that this Court must “balance the risk to the health of the Respondent directly related to his surrender on the one hand and the obligations of the State under the Framework Decision”. The judgment also referred to a decision on a similar issue in Carne v Assistant Garda Commissioner Patrick O’Toole, unreported 21st April 2005, a case determined under the earlier legislation relation to extradition, in which this Court held that the Respondent’s medical condition, which included an earlier stroke, high blood pressure, extensive vascular disease as well as coronary disease, and symptoms which would require nineteen days in hospital and a further period of six months for full recovery, was nevertheless not such as to constitute an exceptional circumstance for the purposes of section 50(2)(bbb) of the Extradition Act 1965.
In the judgment of Finnegan, J. in the S. R case, he stated:
I would allow the appeal on this ground.”
I do not take into account either, in reaching my view in relation to the psychiatric condition of the applicant and the High Court judge’s finding, the fact that some or other of the psychiatric reports raised an issue in respect of the possibility of feigned symptoms, but have considered the evidence relating to his condition in a light most favourable to him. It has to be borne in mind, as has been stated by this court in previous cases, including the S. R. case, supra. ,that the United Kingdom and the authorities in all its constituent parts are obliged to protect the respondent/appellant, having regard to his medical, including psychiatric, condition. There was nothing before the High Court, and there is nothing before this Court, which would suggest that he would not be fully assessed and treated for his particular medical, including psychiatric, difficulties, there, upon surrender, or that his mere surrender would have the effects contended for by counsel on his behalf.
The grounds of appeal based on delay, including delay with regard to the medical condition of the respondent/appellant, are in my view unsustainable and I reject them in their entirety.
I now turn to the second ground of appeal which concerns the legitimate expectation claimed by the respondent/appellant, that he would not be the subject of any prosecution arising from the warrant for his arrest issued in 2001. To understand the case made by him in that regard it is necessary to set out the background which gives rise to this ground, before considering the manner in which the learned High Court judge dealt with it. The European Arrest Warrant issued on the 25th July 2006 by the Glasgow Sheriff’s Court and was based on a domestic warrant issued for the arrest of the appellant and dated the 18th April 2001, arsing from his failure to appear at the High Court of Glasgow to answer an indictment in respect of certain charges, he having been granted bail. The European Arrest Warrant itself sets out in some considerable detail not only the charges but all of the facts and matters giving rise to the charges. Basically the charges concern the sale and supply of controlled drugs. On his own evidence, the respondent, having been granted bail, fled to Ireland. It is not known and the respondent/appellant does not say, how frequently, if at all, he visited the United Kingdom and/or Scotland since he came to Ireland, but on one occasion, on the 16th June 2005, he travelled to the United Kingdom by car, passing through Holyhead. In his affidavit sworn on the 27th February 2007 John O’Leary, solicitor to the respondent/appellant, avers as to the inquiries which he made in relation to the interaction between his client and the appropriate authorities in Holyhead on that occasion.
The respondent/appellant averred in his own affidavit sworn on the 3rd day of February 2007 that he had been stopped in Holyhead on that occasion “when travelling from Ireland”. He continues:
“6. In the circumstances I was led to believe that the prosecution against me was not to continue. As a result I had a legitimate expectation that he (sic) was no longer wanted. I believe it would be unfair and contrary to justice to proceed against me now.” (emphasis added)
On the basis of the foregoing information and averments the respondent/appellant contends that he was “led to believe” that the prosecution against him was not to continue. As a result he avers that he had a “legitimate expectation, that he was no longer wanted”, and “I believe it would be unfair and contrary to justice to proceed against me now”. That is the basis of the legitimate expectation together with the averments of Mr O’Leary as to the steps he took and the responses received from the North Wales police.
The legal argument upon which the applicant proceeds is based to a significant extent on the decision of this court in the case of Eviston v The Director of Public Prosecutions  3 IR 260. Counsel on behalf of respondent/appellant contends, for the reasons which will be discussed further below, that the learned High Court judge was wrong in law in distinguishing between the facts and matters giving rise to the legitimate expectation claim in the present case and that which was determined in favour of the plaintiff in the Eviston case, supra. Counsel on behalf of the applicant/respondent contends that the learned High Court judge correctly distinguished the cases, and that in any event the respondent/appellant could have no valid or legitimate expectation that the warrant issued against him constituted a decision made not to prosecute him at any future date.
In the High Court the learned trial judge dealt with the matter in the following terms:
I am satisfied that the requesting judicial authority has made decision to prosecute the respondent: that is a decision that they are entitled to make and it is set forth in the European Arrest Warrant that such a decision has been made. … This court must, in spite of any impression which the respondent took from the conversation on the 16th June 2005 respect the right of the prosecuting authority in Scotland to proceed against the respondent, and that is in accordance with the high level of trust and confidence which must exist between member states who are parties to the Framework Decision.”
The law relating to legitimate expectation has long been the subject of judgments in this jurisdiction, in the United Kingdom and undoubtedly in Scotland and in many other jurisdictions. It is true also that it has been an evolving area of the law and it may well be that the principles applicable to the doctrine of legitimate expectation have not yet been fully expounded. What is however clearly established in the case law in this jurisdiction, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere is the following primary principle. The expectation which a person is entitled to hold is one which must in all the circumstances of the case be reasonable or legitimate for him to hold. It has been stated in Daly v Minister for the Marine , (Unrept’d, Supreme Court, 4th October 2001), as follows:
The Minister relied upon the following passage from the judgment of Barr J. in Canon v Minister for the Marine  1 IR 82, which seems to me to distil the essence of the doctrine, which is fairness:
… the concept of legitimate expectation, being derived from an equitable doctrine, must be reviewed in the light of equitable principles. The test is whether in all the circumstances it would be unfair or unjust to allow a party to resile from a position created or adopted by him which at that time gave rise to a legitimate expectation in the mind of another that that situation would continue and might be acted upon by him to his advantage.” (emphasis added)
What was absolutely certain in the Eviston case was that there had been a decision made by the appropriate decision maker, namely, the Director of Public Prosecutions, that he would not prosecute the applicant, Ms Eviston, in respect of a certain traffic offence. Evidence was given in this regard on his behalf. The Director of Public Prosecution reviewed the file and, in effect, changed his mind coming to the view that Ms Eviston should be prosecuted after all. She had been notified of the first decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute her, and had subsequently been notified, without intervening warning or changes in any factual matter, that the Director had changed his mind. The decision in the Eviston case is based on legitimate expectation in the sense that this doctrine required the Director of Public Prosecution to operate fair procedures. While he was found to be permitted in law to change his mind and come to a different decision to that previously made, the court found that fair procedures dictated that when he first notified Ms Eviston that she would not be prosecuted he ought to have, in law, so as to ensure fair procedures, informed her at the same time of the possibility that his decision could be reversed at any time in the future. Not having done so, he had created a legitimate expectation in Ms Eviston that she would not be prosecuted. Counsel for the respondent/ appellant relies on the Eviston case and says that the law concerning legitimate expectation, even insofar as fair procedures are concerned, apply by analogy to the exchanges which took place at Holyhead with the respondent/appellant in June 2005.
While it is true that the learned High Court judge, erroneously at first sight, appeared to base his decision on the fact that the applicant in the Eviston case was notified directly by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the decision he had made, and the respondent/appellant in the present case was notified of the decision by police officers in Holyhead, I am not convinced that this is a correct reading of the true import of the judgment. The learned High Court judge, it seems to me, took the view that a decision had been made by the appropriate authority, namely the Director of Public Prosecutions, who communicated that information directly to the accused (although in fact it was communicated indirectly). On the other hand the information conveyed in the present case was by police officers manning the post at Holyhead, and the learned trial judge said “that conversation cannot be read or interpreted as confirmation of anything other than that at that time he was not required to be taken into custody. It cannot in my view be read as precluding the authorities from deciding to proceed at any later date”.
I am of the view that a correct reading of the learned High Court judge’s judgment is that in the Eviston case the evidence before the court, and admitted, was the evidence of the decision maker. In the present case the warrant for the arrest of a person is a judicial document authorised and issued in this case also by a judicial authority (the High Court of Glasgow). There was before the learned High Court judge no evidence whatsoever that any decision had been made by the appropriate decision maker, that the prosecution would not or could not proceed. Still less could it be concluded from the evidence adduced to the High Court that the exchanges, in Scottish law or under the law of the United Kingdom (if otherwise applicable), had as their legal consequence that the warrant could not be pursued, if not executed in Holyhead at that time. The legal consequences or the effect of the exchanges is a matter which could not be investigated by this court, since it is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts, and moreover the learned High Court judge had no evidence whatsoever, as to Scottish law on the matter.
I conclude that the learned High Court judge correctly came to the view that the conversations and exchanges which took place in Holyhead “cannot be read as precluding the authorities from deciding to proceed at any later date” in respect of the warrant and did not in any way err in concluding that the principles set forth in the Eviston case did not apply to the facts arising in the present case. Nor could it, if this court were determining the matter de novo on the same affidavit evidence, lead to the conclusion that the applicant has a legitimate expectation that “the prosecution again me was not to continue”.
Having regard to the foregoing I find that there was no error in law on the part of the High Court judge, and that the respondent/appellant cannot succeed on any of the grounds of appeal.
I would dismiss the appeal in its entirety.