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Supreme Court of Ireland Decisions
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Cite as:  4 IR 189,  IESC 9
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Judgment Title: Algimantas Butenas -v- Governor Cloverhill Prison
Composition of Court: Murray C.J., Denham J., Hardiman J., Geoghegan J., Fennelly J.
Judgment by: Murray C.J.
Status of Judgment: Approved
THE SUPREME COURT
IN THE MATTER OF ARTICLE 40.4
OF THE CONSTITUTION
APPLICANT / APPELLANT
GOVERNOR OF CLOVERHILL PRISON
MINISTER FOR JUSTICE EQUALITY AND LAW REFORM
JUDGMENT of the Court delivered on the 12th day of March 2008 by Murray C.J.
The appellant in these proceedings, having been arrested on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Lithuania, a competent judicial authority, was brought before the High Court for the purposes of the execution of that warrant. Mr. Justice Peart made an order, on 24th November 2006 directing his surrender to the Republic of Lithuania pursuant to s. 16(1) of the European Arrrest Warrant Act 2003. In accordance with the provisions of s. 16(4) of the Act of 2003 the learned High Court Judge made a consequential order on that date committing the appellant to prison pending his surrender.
The appellant did not appeal against the High Court orders made pursuant to s. 16(1) and s. 16(4) of the Act.
The European Arrest Warrant Act 2003, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, is the means by which the State has given effect to the Council Framework Decision of 13th June 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States. Accordingly the Act falls to be interpreted in the light of the provisions of the Framework Decision.
Subsequent to the making of the High Court orders as aforesaid the appellant applied to the High Court for an order pursuant to Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution directing his release from custody of the respondent on the grounds that he was unlawfully detained in Cloverhill Prison.
In response the respondent justified the appellant’s detention by producing to the High Court a committal warrant for the detention of the appellant issued by order of the High Court pursuant to s. 16(4) of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 and which required the appellant to be detained in prison until the date of his delivery by the State authorities to such person as was duly authorised on behalf of the Republic of Lithuania to receive his surrender to them for the purpose of being returned to Lithuania to stand trial for certain criminal offences.
The said order and warrant were issued by the High Court following a determination by that Court pursuant to s. 16 that the appellant should be surrendered to the authorities in Lithuania for the purpose of standing trial in relation to certain offences specified in a European Arrest Warrant dated December 2004 issued by a judicial authority in that country.
The High Court, having concluded that the respondent had, in law, valid grounds for the detention of the appellant, dismissed the appellant’s application pursuant to Article 40. In doing so the High Court rejected the appellant’s submission that s. 16(4) of the Act of 2003 was unconstitutional.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was made a notice party to these proceedings and he was the applicant in the proceedings in which an order was sought and obtained for the surrender of the appellant to the Lithuanian authorities pursuant to s. 16 of the Act of 2003.
It is also relevant to note that the Minister as specified in s. 6(1) of the Act of 2003 is the Central Authority in the State for the purposes of the Act. It is to the Central Authority in the State, that a European Arrest Warrant must be transmitted by the issuing judicial authority (s. 12 of the Act).
In general terms it may be said that the Minister, being designated as the Central Authority in the State for the purposes of the Act, has administrative and executive responsibility for initiating the steps to be taken for the arrest of a person named in a European Arrest Warrant for the purpose of bringing that person before the Courts in order that the warrant may be executed by the High Court. He also has executive and administrative responsibility for giving effect to an order for surrender, that is to say the handing over of the person concerned to the authorities of the requesting State when a judicial order has been made for that purpose.
Because the proceedings brought by the appellant involved a challenge to the constitutionality of the provision of the statute a notice to that effect was served on the Attorney General pursuant to Order 60 of the Rules of the Superior Courts.
The Grounds upon which an Order pursuant to Article 40.4.2 is sought:
First of all it should be noted that the appellant does not seek to impugn, and has at no stage sought to impugn, the lawfulness of the determination and Order made by the High Court pursuant to s.16(1) of the European Arrest Act 2003, as amended, directing that he be surrendered to Lithuania. Neither was any appeal taken to this Court from that decision nor was any appeal taken from the order made pursuant to s. 16(4) which directed his imprisonment.
The appellant’s claim in these proceedings turns on the consequential Order made by the High Court in the European Arrest Warrant proceedings which ordered his detention in Cloverhill Prison pending his surrender to the Lithuanian authorities. He says that the detention order is unlawful having been made in the exercise of a statutory power which is unconstitutional.
That order was made pursuant to s. 16(4), the terms of which are set out below but which provides that the High Court, when making an order for surrender pursuant to s. 16, shall also make an order committing the person to prison pending his or her surrender to the authorities of the requesting State.
The appellant’s claim is that the terms of that provision were such that it precluded the release on bail pending surrender, in every case and in all circumstances, the person in respect of whom an Order of surrender was made.
Accordingly, s.16(4) is unconstitutional, it is claimed, because the obligation which it places on the High Court to order the detention of a person pending surrender is a denial of a right to liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution in failing to permit the Court, in the exercise of an inherent discretion, to release a person on bail and subject to such conditions as may be thought fit pending his or her actual surrender to the authorities of the State requesting the surrender. As a consequence, it was submitted that that part of the Order which directed the detention of the appellant between the making of the Surrender Order and his actual surrender to the appropriate Lithuanian authorities was unlawful and his release should be ordered.
Submissions of the Appellant
(b) He was deprived of his liberty solely and exclusively because the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 was deemed to require his imprisonment.
(c) This was done simply to convenience his surrender and convenience can never be a basis for depriving a person of his or her liberty.
(d) There is no rational basis for the appellant’s detention. Since the Order for his surrender did not, by virtue of s. 16(3) of the Act of 2003, have force and effect until fifteen days after it was made there is no rational justification for the Court being obliged to order his imprisonment pending surrender.
(e) The effect of s. 16(4) was to deprive the High Court of the power to decide whether or not the appellant should be released conditionally on the basis of an individual assessment of the appellant’s circumstances. This could have been achieved without interfering with the objectives of the Act and the framework decision on which it is based namely the ultimate surrender of the appellant to the State which issued the European Arrest Warrant (the issuing State). In removing an inherent jurisdiction of the Court to release the appellant on bail in this manner the Oireachtas exceeded its powers under the Constitution.
(f) Furthermore, it was submitted, the obligation imposed on the High Court pursuant to s. 16(4) to order the detention of a person pending actual surrender was disproportionate to the object to be achieved, namely, to ensure that the person was available for such surrender. There is nothing in the framework decision which would inhibit the High Court from exercising a power to grant bail this being a question for national law as indicated in Article 12 of the framework decision.
Submissions of the Respondent and Notice Party
As to the substance of the appeal Counsel for the State first of all pointed out that the Framework Decision, to which the Act of 2003 gives effect, clearly leaves the issue of the detention of a person who has been arrested on foot of an EAW to be dealt with by the domestic law of each Member State subject only to the caveat that the competent authority of each member State must do what it considers necessary to prevent the person absconding. The submissions of the State made specific reference to Article 12 of the Framework Decision which provides:
When a person is arrested on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant, the executing judicial authority shall take a decision on whether the requested person should remain in detention in accordance with the law of the executing member State. The person may be released provisionally at any time in conformity with the domestic law of the executing member State, provided that the competent authority of the said member State takes all the measures it deems necessary to prevent the person absconding.” (emphasis added).
That is clearly a correct statement of the law and there was no issue between the parties on that point.
The essence of the submission of the State on the substantive issue is that the appellant and the learned High Court Judge, were incorrect in interpreting s. 16(4) of the Act of 2003 as prohibiting the High Court from exercising an inherent jurisdiction to grant bail where an order for surrender has been made under s. 16(1). Therefore the premise on which the appellant relies to impugn the constitutionality of the section is unfounded. Section 16 as a whole and in particular s. 16(4) should be applied on the basis that the High Court still has an inherent power to grant bail.
In other words, the argument on behalf of the Minister, the Attorney General and the Governor, is that it is perfectly permissible for the High Court to grant bail to a person whose surrender has been ordered pending the final implementation of that person’s surrender to the authorities of the requesting State. It was submitted that that inherent power to grant bail is of course discretionary, to be granted or refused having regard to the circumstances of the case and in particular the need to ensure that the person concerned does not abscond.
Counsel for the State submitted that although s. 16(4) provides that the High Court, when making an order for surrender, shall also make an order committing the person to a prison “there to remain pending his or her surrender”, those words are not sufficiently clear to oust the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to grant bail.
It was submitted that in the absence of express provision restricting the Court from granting bail it remains open to the High Court to grant bail to a person in respect of whom an order for surrender has been made under s. 16(1). The State went further and submitted that even if that submission was not correct there must at least be an ambiguity as to the interpretation of s. 16(4) on this point. It was submitted that having regard to the principle of “double construction” the Court should give the provision in question a reading which permits the High Court to grant bail upon an order for surrender being made.
The State also pointed out that any statute which seeks to restrict such an inherent and fundamental power of the High Court to grant bail, and particularly a power which deals with a person’s liberty, must do so clearly and unambiguously. It was submitted that s. 16(4) is not clear and unambiguous in this regard.
The State concluded by submitting that there was no clear indication in s. 16(4) that a person detained under that section may not be granted bail by the High Court. In circumstances where the liberty of an individual is at issue any ambiguity in a statute should be construed in his or her favour. Therefore, it was submitted the provision should be interpreted so as to allow the High Court to retain its jurisdiction to grant bail even though it has made an order for the surrender pursuant to s. 16 of the Act of 2003.
The Decision of the High Court
Counsel’s note then recited the reasons given by Peart J. in this case in the following terms:
Section 16(1) of the Act of 2003, so far as relevant, provides:
(a) that he or she will not, without his or her consent, be surrendered to the issuing State, before the expiration of the period of 15 days specified in subsection (3), and
(b) of his or her right to make a complaint under Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution at any time before his or her surrender to the issuing state.”
The reference to the 15 days specified in subsection 3 is a reference to that subsection as inserted and substituted by s. 76 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 and provides as follows:
(a) the order takes effect in accordance with subsection (3),
(b) such date (being a date that falls after the expiration of that period) as may be agreed by the Central Authority in the State and the issuing state.”
“(6) Where a person makes a complaint under Article 40.4.2° of the Constitution, he or she shall not be surrendered to the issuing state while proceedings relating to the complaint are pending,”
“(7) A person (to whom an order for the time being in force under this section applies) who is not surrendered to the issuing state in accordance with subsection (5) shall be released from custody immediately upon the expiration of the 10 days referred to in that subsection unless, upon such expiration, proceedings referred to in subsection (6) are pending.”
S. 16(4) and the discretion to grant bail
Indeed both parties also acknowledged the power to grant bail is one which is essential to the safeguarding of the right to liberty of an individual who has not been convicted of any offence and is a protection for the citizen from unnecessary or arbitrary loss of that liberty.
However, while the State argues that s. 16(4) does not have the effect of ousting that inherent jurisdiction of the Court, the appellant argues to the contrary by virtue of which he claims the subsection is unconstitutional.
That the inherent jurisdiction of the Courts to grant bail has for centuries been fundamental to the jurisdiction of the Courts to protect the liberty of the individual has been stated and explained in several authorities of this Court.
Walsh J., stated in the seminal case of Attorney General –v- Callaghan  I.R. 501 at 511
“By the antient common law, before and since the conquest, all felonies were bailable, ‘til murder was excepted by statute: so that persons might be admitted to bail almost in every case.””
It was for these reasons that Walsh J., stated:
The Court considers it appropriate to recall at this point the precise words of s. 16(4):
(c) that he or she will not, without his or her consent, be surrendered to the issuing State, before the expiration of the period of 15 days specified in subsection (3), and
(d) of his or her right to make a complaint under Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution at any time before his or her surrender to the issuing state.”
A statute which confers a power on the High Court to deprive an individual of his or her liberty, particularly when the imprisonment as such is not the object of the provision must be strictly interpreted. In this instance there are no grounds for concluding, as Counsel for the Minister made clear, that the purpose of the section would be undermined by a release on bail, subject to appropriate conditions, in cases where the Court is satisfied that the purpose of the section can be achieved without a remand in prison.
The Court is of the view that if the Oireachtas had intended to oust the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to grant bail in all cases where an order for surrender has been made, irrespective of the circumstances, it would have explicitly and unambiguously done so. To interpret the subsection otherwise would be to assume that the Oireachtas intended that persons should be detained for the purpose of their surrender even in cases where such detention was not necessary for such a purpose. Again the Court does not consider that the section discloses any grounds for such an assumption.
It was submitted by the appellant in the course of argument that the phrase “there to remain pending his or her surrender” was indicative of an intention to oust the Court’s inherent jurisdiction to grant bail. At most that phrase is simply declaratory of the purpose of the imprisonment, if imposed. It does not alter the ulterior or collateral purpose of the section and at best it is too oblique a phrase to be a basis for implying an intention to oust a jurisdiction as fundamental as the discretion to grant bail.
It was also suggested that the presence of an express provision for the granting of bail in other sections of the Act, such as when a person, who has been arrested on foot of a European Arrest Warrant, is being remanded pending the determination of the application for his or her surrender, leads to the conclusion that s. 16(4), in failing to provide expressly for the grant of bail, envisaged that bail would never be granted.
While it may be said that the interpretation of any provision of a statute should be considered in the context of its other provisions and indeed in the context of the Act as a whole, it has to be borne in mind that in this case the issue concerns the inherent jurisdiction of the Court to grant bail when there is no necessary purpose for the imprisonment of the individual. To conclude that the Oireachtas by omitting to make an express provision permitting the High Court to grant bail thereby ousted its inherent jurisdiction to do so would be akin to treating the grant of bail as a privilege to be conferred by the State, contrary to the dicta of Walsh J., cited above. The historic jurisdiction of the High Court to grant bail is not dependant on express statutory provisions. Accordingly, the Court is of the view that the fact that other sections of the Act make express provision for bail is not in itself sufficient to justify a decision that a section which is silent as to bail was necessarily intended to oust what the Court has already described as a fundamental and inherent jurisdiction of the High Court.
For these reasons the Court is satisfied that when the High Court has made an order for surrender of a person pursuant to s. 16 of the Act s. 16(4) does not oust its inherent jurisdiction to admit the person concerned to bail pending surrender in the exercise of its discretion.
It might be added that it has always been acknowledged that there are certain, strictly limited, circumstances in which the State is entitled to make provision for the detention of a person, not convicted of a criminal offence, where bail is not an option. These for example include the detention of persons in connection with the investigation of certain criminal offences pursuant to s. 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984, the detention of persons under the Mental Treatment Act 1945 and now the Mental Health Act 2001, the detention of a person who may be a source of infection from an infectious disease under s. 38(1) of the Health Act, 1947, and the detention of certain immigrants under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 1999. It is not inconceivable that circumstances could arise in which the Oireachtas would judge it essential to provide for some limited period of detention without bail as being necessary to ensure that persons were available for surrender to a requesting State in extradition matters. As the Court has found, this is not what the Oireachtas has sought to do in this instance and the issue of proportionality relied upon by the respondents in the proceedings does not arise in the light of the Court’s conclusions.