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Supreme Court of Ireland Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> Supreme Court of Ireland Decisions >> Keating -v- D.J. Crowley & ors  IESC 29 (12 May 2010)
Cite as:  IESC 29,  1 ILRM 309,  3 IR 648
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Judgment Title: Keating -v- D.J. Crowley & ors
Composition of Court: Murray C.J., Denham J., Hardiman J., Geoghegan J., Fennelly J.
Judgment by: Murray C.J.
Status of Judgment: Unapproved
THE SUPREME COURT
Applicant / RESPONDENT
JUDGE TIMOTHY CROWLEY, IRELAND AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
JUDGMENT of Murray C.J. delivered on the 12th day of May 2010
This is an appeal brought by the second and third named appellants (hereafter the appellants) against an award of damages for the total sum of €214,000 to the applicant/respondent (hereafter the respondent) for loss and damage claimed to have been sustained as a result of the breach of certain constitutional and legal rights. A sum of €100,000 damages has been paid to the respondent as directed by the High Court with a stay on the balance pending the outcome of this appeal.
The respondent’s claim was heard and determined in the High Court as an assessment only the appellants having decided not to contest liability.
The Notice of Appeal lodged on behalf of the appellants is an appeal only on the issue of the quantum of the damages awarded, as is also acknowledged to be the case at paragraph 7. of the affidavit of Miss G. Hodge dated 12th September 2008 and filed on their behalf.
Application by Appellants to amend Notice of Appeal and for a retrial on liability
When this appeal was first listed for hearing as an appeal against assessment of damages only the Court indicated that it was difficult to identify the cause or causes of action in respect of which the State had admitted liability and the legal basis on which the State agreed that it was liable to pay damages to the appellant which they had agreed would be assessed by the Court. This raised questions concerning the jurisdiction or at least the basis in law on foot of which the Court could review the assessment of damages since any assessment of damages depended, inter alia, on identifying the causes of action involved and the causal connection between any wrong admitted to have been committed and the damages or compensation awarded. The Court invited the parties to consider this situation and to make submissions as to how the Court should proceed.
In response the State appellants, as part of their submissions in this regard, applied to this Court by way of a Notice of Motion pursuant to Order 58 Rule 6 of the Rules of the Superior Courts for an Order (i) amending the notice of appeal and (ii) remitting the proceedings to the High Court for a determination of the issue of the liability of the State to the respondent for damages. The additional grounds of appeal which the appellants seek to have included in an amended Notice of Appeal are the following:-
In a Grounding Affidavit supporting the foregoing application the solicitor for the appellants stated, inter alia,:-
In substance the State now seeks to impugn the decision of the High Court at this stage in these proceedings on the grounds that there is no legal basis for attributing liability to the State for the payment of damages to the plaintiffs for the wrongs which he alleges to have sustained and that the matter should be remitted to the High Court to have the issue of State liability decided.
The respondent in the appeal contends that given the course of the proceedings, and the admission of liability in the High Court that the State is in effect estopped from raising the issue of liability at this stage. He also submitted that it would be an injustice to the plaintiff to permit the issue of liability to be opened at this stage and, insofar as the Court might have a discretion to permit the appellant to re-open the issue of liability at this stage, there are no compelling or exceptional circumstances which would warrant the exercise of that discretion in favour of the State.
The first issue which the Court has to consider, in the light of the appellants’ application, is whether the State should be permitted to amend and extend their appeal so as to impugn the decision of the High Court to award damages on the grounds that the State had no liability even though liability was admitted in the High Court.
If that application is refused, as I consider it should be, the next issue is whether, in the particular circumstances of the case, the appellants’ appeal discloses justiciable grounds of appeal, and only if so, whether they are well founded in whole or in part.
Issue concerning amendment and retrial on liability
The application of the appellants referred to above seeks an amendment of the Notice of Appeal in the form indicated and, in an express acknowledgment that the issue of liability which the appellants now wish to be tried should not in any event be tried in this Court as a court of final appeal but in the High Court as the court of first instance, seeks an order remitting that issue for trial by the High Court.
I think it would be useful to set out at this point the sequence of events concerning the claim for damages.
Subsequent to all the foregoing the appellants brought their application to resurrect the issue of the State’s liability in this case and seek a retrial on that basis.
As concerns the application to amend the grounds of appeal so as to pursue a defence of no liability it should first of all be pointed out that this is not an application to introduce new grounds of appeal concerning the determination of the High Court on an issue which has already been challenged on other grounds in the appeal already filed.
Nor is it even an attempt to challenge on appeal an issue which was contested in the High Court. It is an attempt to set up a case of liability de novo for the purpose of resisting the plaintiff’s claim in a retrial on grounds which had been conceded at the commencement of the trial in the High Court.
Neither is the application itself grounded on any error of law or fact alleged to have been committed by the trial Judge or any injustice in the conduct of the hearing. The application is made solely because, on further reflection after the Notice of Appeal was lodged, the appellants have concluded that they ought to have maintained the issue of State liability, rather than abandoned it, at the trial. The State has now adopted the view that it is in a strong position to argue that it has no liability in law to the respondent.
The appellants acknowledge, as they are bound to do, that the issue of liability could have and (from their perspective) should have, been pursued in the High Court and that it was only on further reflection, after they had lodged their appeal on quantum only to this Court, that they concluded that they should seek to have a trial of the issue of liability.
In short it was intended that the judgment of the High Court, on the basis of the appellants’ admission, would be final and conclusive as regards liability.
Arguments of the Appellant
The appellants submit that it is of fundamental importance to the State as to whether the State may be liable for damages when an individual’s rights are adversely affected by acts done pursuant to the provisions of an Act of the Oireachtas which enjoys the presumption of constitutionality but which is subsequently found to be unconstitutional. While it is accepted in those submissions that as a general principle the Supreme Court will refuse to allow a party to raise an issue on appeal that was not argued before the High Court, it is submitted nonetheless that there are exceptions to this principle even if those exceptions are very limited.
For the foregoing proposition the appellants relied on the judgment of Finlay C.J., in KED v. MC  I.R. 697, 701 where he stated:
" The fact that the issues affect the doctrine of separation of powers inherent in the Constitution;
The fact that the issues go to the jurisdiction of the Courts to award any damages at all in this case;
The legal significance and novelty of the issues involved;
The likely importance of the issues in future cases;
The absence of any serious prejudice to the respondent.”
I would first observe that the facts and circumstances of KED v. MC were quite different to the situation in the present case. In that case the appellants (where the Court refused to hear the issue) sought to raise for the first time in the Supreme Court a mixed question of law and fact which had not been raised or decided in the High Court. In the present proceedings the liability of the State was expressly put in issue and decided on the basis of an express admission of liability by the State. On foot of that admission the High Court determined that the State was liable to the appellant and awarded damages accordingly.
It would not be really correct to treat this case as one in which the issue of liability was simply not tried and decided. It was not tried as an issue because the State took the position that there was no argument which could be made against its liability to the plaintiff and that the issue should be determined on that basis. In that sense the issue was decided.
The terms of the High Court order included the following:
the Court doth reserve judgment herein
and the same coming on accordingly for judgment on this day
the Court doth find that the respondent was negligent
the Court doth assess damages under the following headings.”
There may indeed be, as Finlay C.J., stated, “most exceptional circumstances” where the Court would hear and determine an issue which has not been “tried and decided” in the High Court if that is clearly required in the interests of justice. The liability of the State, having been in contention between the parties until it was conceded, was an integral part of the decision of the High Court. In any event, even if the principle stated by Finlay C.J., were to be applied in this case I do not think that the appellants have in any sense established that the re-opening and retrial of these proceedings are required in the interests of justice.
Undoubtedly the principles of law of general importance arise as regards any State liability to individuals where the application of an Act of the Oireachtas has caused them adverse consequences and that law is at some later date found to be unconstitutional.
However these proceedings are the respondent’s proceedings in which he sought and obtained an award of damages against the State. The problem which has arisen in this appeal is that the principles of law according to which liability was conceded and thus found in favour of the respondent were never stated nor are they readily discernible. The State now wishes to say that there is no basis in law at all for such an award. To determine the principles of law to be applied would involve a substantial hearing and extensive legal argument.
In those circumstances and since the High Court did not have to address any legal principles, because it was not required to do so, on foot of which the liability of the State might arise it is not a precedent in law for other cases on the issues which the State refer to in their submissions and which I have cited above. The decision in this case only binds the parties to these proceedings. These are issues which it is open to the State to litigate in other proceedings according as they might arise. The State chose not to do so in this particular case and in my view it would be wholly unjust to a plaintiff who had proceeded against a defendant in his claim for damages for an assessment only, the defendant having so agreed. If a defendant were to be permitted to change his or her mind after the High Court decision (and indeed after it had lodged its Notice of Appeal) and seek to have a retrial of the whole matter which, depending on the precise determination on the question of liability, could also involve a retrial on the question of damages.
One cannot lose sight of the fact that the respondent exercised his constitutional right of access to the Courts to have certain issues, including his claim for damages determined in accordance with law. The State had every option to defend the claim on all issues. He succeeded in his action and the damages were assessed on the basis of a general admission of liability on the part of the State for the wrongs alleged. Having completed that judicial process before the High Court it is somewhat cavalier, to say the least, for the State to argue that his legal costs to date are the only prejudice which he would suffer if the judgment of the High Court was set aside and the matter remitted for trial de novo on the issue of liability. To accede to the State’s application would be to deny the respondents the rights and benefits of a judgment of the High Court, even if subject to an appeal in question.
The situation in which the State finds itself is entirely of its own making and in my view it would be unconscionable to set aside the order of the High Court on the question of liability because the State wishes to raise that issue at this stage when it could have done so in the court of trial. The respondent would lose the benefit of the order of the High Court on this issue which is not impugned by the appellants on any ground of error or defect in the judicial process.
Apart from the principle that “the finality of proceedings at the level of trial and possibly more particularly at the level of ultimate appeal is of fundamental importance to the certainty of the administration of law,” (Hamilton C.J., In re Greendale Developments Limited (In Liquidation) (No. 3) 200 2 I.R. 514) to deny the respondent the benefits of determination of the issue of liability by the High Court on the grounds advanced by the appellants would be a denial of justice.
As mentioned above it was clearly the intention of, and accepted by, both parties that when the trial on the assessment of damages took place in the High Court that the decision would finally determine the issue of liability between the parties in this case.
In that light the issue of liability between these parties can probably be regarded as being governed by the principle of res judicata. On that ground the appellants would be estopped per res judicatum from raising again the issue of liability in this appeal. The result would be no different if one were to adopt the view expressed obiter in Bradshaw v. M’Mullan  I.R. 424, that estoppel arising from a judgment by consent was more properly characterised as an estoppel by conduct as noted in Civil Procedure in the Superior Courts, Delaney and McGrath, Sweet and Maxwell, 2001 (at p. 651).
In any event I am satisfied that to grant the application of the appellants to amend the Notice of Appeal with the view to re-opening the issue of liability would be to permit an abuse of the process of the Courts. In the judgment delivered in this Court in In The Matter of Vantive Holdings & Ors., (The Supreme Court, Unreported 14th October, 2009) express reference was made to the inherent jurisdiction of this Court “to protect the integrity of the due process of the administration of justice and the finality, in principle, of a judicial decision.”
In that case it was noted that the petitioner “had an opportunity to present to the Court all the evidence at its disposal which was material to having the application decided in its favour… it deliberately chose not to do so … . On that basis it permitted the application to be heard and determined by the High Court and on appeal by this Court.”
The attempt by the petitioner in that case to bring a second petition on foot of material evidence which was deliberately withheld in the course of the proceedings concerning an earlier petition was held to constitute an abuse of the process of the Court. It was observed in that judgment that “to permit the petition to proceed, unless there are exceptional excusing circumstances, would undermine the integrity of the proper and efficient administration of justice and the principle of finality.”
In this case the appellants deliberately refrained from pursuing the issue of liability but now wish to re-open the case and raise that issue in a second hearing before the High Court.
In this case there are of course no excusing circumstances, and apart from or in addition to, the question of the appellants being estopped from raising the issue of liability, I am in any event satisfied that it would constitute an abuse of the process of the Courts to permit them to do so.
Accordingly the application to amend the Notice of Appeal and have the matter remitted to the High Court on the issue of liability should be refused.
I now come to the issue as to how the appeal brought by the appellants on the issue of damages should be determined. Before addressing that issue I think it is appropriate in this context to set out certain details concerning the course of these proceedings, the earlier decision of this Court on the question of constitutionality, the nature of the damages claimed and the damages awarded.
Relevant dates concerning District Court proceedings
6th November 1998: (a) District Court made an interim order pursuant to s. 4 of the Act of 1996 barring the respondent from the family home until 3rd February 1999 without leave of the Court.
15th November 1998: respondent arrested, detained and subsequently charged with a breach of the barring order when he refused to leave his wife’s home at the request of the Garda Siochana.
16/17 November 1998: respondent released from custody on bail relating to the offence of breaching the interim barring order.
23rd November 1998: return date for application made by the respondent to have the interim barring order discharged pursuant to s. 13 of the Act of 1996. (application not proceeded with).
3rd February 1999: order of High Court granting leave to apply for judicial review and date on which interim barring order was due to expire.
The Supreme Court Finding of Unconstitutionality
It is important to note that the primary ground on which the respondent attacked the constitutionality of the relevant provisions of the Domestic Violence Act 1996 was the jurisdiction granted to the District Court to grant to a spouse in an ex parte application, an interim order barring the other spouse from the family home and thus without giving that other spouse an opportunity to be heard at that stage. This, the respondent claimed, was a denial of a right to a fair hearing and in breach of his constitutional rights.
In its judgment on the constitutional issue this Court rejected that claim but held that the relevant provisions were unconstitutional because of the failure of the Act to ensure that an interim barring order made ex parte would only remain in force for a short period of time after which its continuance could only be determined by a full hearing on the merits with both parties being heard.
The Court referred to subsection 4 of s. 4 of the Act of 1996 which had the effect that the interim barring order continued in force until “the determination by the Court of the application for a barring order”. As a consequence of the latter provision there was no statutory time limit on the effect of an interim barring order granted ex parte pursuant to s. 3 and such an order could continue in force until such time as the original applicant saw fit to seek a long term or permanent barring order or the person the subject of the barring order made an application for its discharge. In the latter case the onus would be on the applicant, the spouse who had been barred.
In this particular case the District Court, when it issued the interim barring order did specify a date for the hearing of the barring order application as such and the summons required the respondent to attend the District Court on 3rd February 1999 almost three months after the making of the interim barring order.
Again on the facts of this case the respondent himself had indeed initiated, on 8th November 1998, an application to the District Court seeking an order terminating the interim barring order and the return date for that application was the 23rd November 1998. However in such an application the onus was on the respondent to establish why the interim order should be discharged.
In this context the Court stated:
It is undoubtedly the case that the respondent may apply to the Court at any time to have the interim order discharged or varied. No reason has been advanced, however, presumably because there is none, as to why the legislature should have imposed on respondents in this particular form of litigation, with all its draconian consequences, the obligation to take the initiative in issuing proceedings in order to obtain the discharge of an order granted in his or her absence, which it may be, should never have been granted in the first place. [It has not been demonstrated that the remedy of an interim order granted on an ex parte basis would be in some sense seriously weakened if the interim order thus obtained were to be of a limited duration only, thus requiring the applicant, at the earliest practical opportunity, to satisfy the Court in the presence of the opposing party that the order was properly granted and should now be continued in force.
The Court fully appreciates the considerations which the Executive and the Legislature would have had in mind in providing for the granting of interim barring orders on an ex parte basis. In the many cases where the spouses are still living together and one is being subjected to violence by the other which may also extend to the children, it may simply not be practicable for the application to be made on notice to the respondent. It is not the existence of a jurisdiction to grant interim barring orders on an ex parte basis which creates a serious constitutional difficulty, it is the manner in which the legislation has provided for the granting of such orders.”] (emphasis added).
In its judgment the Court concluded as follows:
The Claim for Damages
Subsequent to the decision of this Court on the constitutional issues the respondent, on 9th April 2003 lodged a document entitled “Points of claim for damages”. These were lengthy and often repetitive but essentially consisted of the following claims:
1. Damages, including aggravated and exemplary damages, for false imprisonment. This related to his arrest on 15th November 1998 for his breach of the interim barring order made by the District Court which was then still extant but subsequently quashed for the reasons explained. The wrongful imprisonment was said to result from the making of the interim barring order in a manner which was contrary to constitutionally guaranteed fair procedures because the respondent was not given an opportunity to defend himself in the ex parte proceedings and/or because it continued in force under the terms of the said Act for an unreasonable period of time which had been held to be unconstitutional.
The Damages Awarded
The damages awarded to the respondent were made by the learned High Court Judge under the following headings:
(i) Loss of convenience of housing from 6th November
The appellants have a right of appeal to this Court but if they are to succeed they must in the first instance establish that they appeal on grounds which have a justiciable legal basis which would permit this Court, inter alia, to review whether the High Court was correct in law making the assessment of damages which the appellant seek to impugn.
As can be seen from the points of claim the respondent sought damages for the global consequences, one might say, in his personal life alleged to flow from the interim barring order made by the District Court and his arrest by the Gardaí for an alleged breach of that order. At no stage has the case been made that there was any malice or lack of bona fides on the part of the appellants. The evidential case made in the High Court by the respondent for damages for these global consequences which he claimed to flow from these two events were grounded on the admission of liability by the State for the wrongs alleged. There is one point concerning the State’s admission of liability which may require clarification and I will refer to it later. At this point, while I do not think it is necessary for the purpose of the issue under consideration to review extensively the factual circumstances of the case and in particular all the evidence given by or on behalf of the respondent at the trial some general observations on the scope of the damages awarded may be useful.
The interim order was made on the ex parte application of the respondent’s wife alleging abuse, including physical abuse, often associated with excessive drinking, on his part over a period of 1½ years prior to the application to the District Court. The respondent has substantially denied the allegations (and there has been no decision resolving that conflict of fact) but that was the basis on which the District Court order was made. It is now common case that the respondent and his wife were never reconciled and they are unlikely to do so at any stage.
As regards the first two items of damage referred to above, namely those related to housing, the High Court, having noted that the house in which he lived with his wife was a Corporation house in which the respondent was a joint tenant concluded that it would have been unreasonable for him to surrender his joint tenancy for the purpose of seeking other accommodation from the Corporation prior to the Supreme Court decision of 9th October 2002 and awarded him €12,000 “in terms of the loss of rent, loss of convenience of housing up to the 9th October 2002”. As regards the second sum for housing the learned High Court Judge stated “In terms of allowing a reasonably liberal figure of years for getting on to the housing list going by the bed and breakfast/hostel route I consider that it is a much more challenging and serious downturn of the plaintiff’s situation and very intrusive of his rights and his culture and his personal self esteem and pride and also challenging to his health. On that basis, even though it might be notional in the outturn of events, I consider that if he were brave enough to face into that, a modest figure to compensate him for that would be €15,000 a year and that by 3 years into the future amounts to €45,000.”
The next head of damage was that awarded for arrest, custody and false imprisonment. This claim for false imprisonment was not advanced on the basis of the classical common law tort. Here it was acknowledged that at the time of the arrest the Gardaí had the statutory power to do so for breach of a then extant District Court Order made under provisions which were subsequently found to have been unconstitutional.
As regards the “loss of an amenity to work” the learned trial Judge found that the respondent had not established a claim for loss of earnings as such but as a person who, as a result of the proceedings in the District Court, had, as he found, come to be regarded as somewhat of a pariah and he was not asked to do the kind of handyman jobs which neighbours and others in the community used to ask him to do. Allowing for a “fade factor” the learned trial Judge awarded him the sum referred to above namely €12,000 not as a loss of income but as a loss of amenity of life.
As regards the loss of the constitutional right to enjoy children and marital privacy the learned trial Judge stated at page 27 of his decision: “In terms of the poor access, access into the house; the publicly perceived rift between himself and the children and that is a past element, which is mainly in the past, but will also persist into the future until things settle down, but it is mainly in the past and accordingly I award €50,000 in respect of that item, €40,000 for the past and €10,000 for the future totalling €50,000.”
As regards the plaintiff’s loss of good name the learned trial Judge noted that “This arises on a constitutional basis, it cannot be defined nor is it pleaded as a matter of defamation because the ingredients of the defamation seem to be lacking here”. On the basis that his relationship with his brothers and with other people suffered and that people avoided and shunned him arising from the District Court proceedings, including the making of the barring order, the learned trial Judge determined that he should be compensated in the sum of €50,000.
In making the award for emotional and psychological suffering the learned trial Judge discounted evidence that the respondent’s alcoholism, suicidal thoughts and apparent attempts by him to end his own life were as a result of the barring order but that the plaintiff was a “poor subject for the onslaught of the unconstitutional order” and some of these difficulties may have been made worse. Accordingly he awarded the sum of €25,000.
It might also be noted that for the purpose of assessing damages the learned High Court Judge had inter alia, ruled that certain mitigating steps that were alleged to be open to the respondent, such as the expedition of divorce proceedings which had been commenced or taking advantage of the hearing fixed for 3rd February 1999 could not properly be considered a failure to mitigate on the part of the respondent because the wrongful acts of the appellants had placed him in difficulties and in a disadvantageous situation in that regard.
It seems to me patent that a crucial element in the assessment of damages in the particular circumstances of the claim in this case is the legal basis for the liability of the State for the purpose of determining the extent to which the State can be held vicariously liable for the order made by the District Court under a law (which was then extant) and a bona fide arrest by the Gardaí under the authority of a law which was then extant for breach of the District Court order. The legal parameters of the cause of action would also be crucial in determining such issues as a causal connection between the wrong complained of and the damages sustained or remoteness of damage.
Such difficulties have now been fully acknowledged by the appellants who of course now say that the learned trial Judge could not have decided the issue of damages without determining the legal basis for the liability of the appellants something for which, for the reasons outlined earlier in this judgment, he can hardly be faulted in the light of the attitude of the State.
Assuming, as one must for present purposes, that the course of events in the respondent’s personal life were attributable to some wrong on the part of the State, and not stemming from any inherent or inevitable difficulty arising from a de facto breakdown in the respondent’s marital relationship, they are nonetheless alleged to be attributable to:
Before addressing these issues further there is one aspect concerning the State’s admission of liability which I wish to clarify.
At one stage it was suggested that the State had admitted liability only for such consequences as occurred between 8th November 1998 and 3rd February 1999. That is to say from a reasonably short period after the making of the interim barring order and the date when the interim barring order was due to expire as specified in the order of the District Court. That incidentally was also the date on which liberty to bring judicial review proceedings was sought and the proceedings before the District Court were stayed by order of the High Court.
There is no doubt but that the respondent’s proceedings proceeded before the High Court on an admission of liability and he was permitted to give and call evidence as to the global consequences of which he complained effectively without objection. In the course of submissions to the trial Judge on issues concerning damages counsel for the State at one point suggested that damages be limited to the dates referred to above but went on to confine his submissions to saying that no damages should be awarded to the respondent for loss arising from lack of accommodation or being out of work after 3rd February 1999 since that was the date when the interim barring order expired and any damage or loss sustained by the respondent after that date could not be said to have been caused by the making of the interim barring order. It was open to the respondent, it was submitted, to go into that court on that date and have a hearing on the merits. This was not so much a denial of liability of the wrong caused to the respondent but an argument addressed to the causal connection between the wrong admitted and the damage claimed to have been sustained or to put it alternatively, the remoteness of damage. This in fact was the approach of counsel for the State on that issue in the High Court and in the course of his submissions he indicated to the learned trial Judge that he should examine what the State did wrong then what flowed from that wrong since there must be cause and effect as he put it.
I do not propose to analyse the learned trial Judge’s ruling or approach to this question except to say that he found that the wrongs admitted to have been committed by the State, that is to say the making of an interim barring order and his arrest for breaching the barring order of the District Court, had put him in a position that he was so disadvantaged from defending his position in the District Court that the State could not rely on that opportunity to appear in court as a ground for limiting the damages to which he was entitled.
This, I would add is an example of the difficulty that this Court would face in endeavouring to review that decision by the High Court since the legal criteria on foot of which the State admitted it was liable were never identified either by the State in admitting liability or the High Court Judge when awarding damages (since he had no need to do so). Even if this Court found some fatal flaw on the face of the reasoning of the learned trial Judge on this point the Court would still find it difficult if not impossible to assess what the damages should be without reference to some legal criteria or the identification of a known wrong on foot of which liability was admitted. (Remitting the matter to the High Court would only be meaningful if the liability issue was re-opened and for reasons stated above this cannot be done).
The Merits of the Appeal
It is important to recall, though previously noted, that the appellants in their submissions have accepted that there was a fundamental deficiency in the legal basis for their appeal on the issues concerning the assessment of damages. In their submissions the appellants acknowledged:-
I think the approach fairly expressed at this stage by the appellants above is correct as regards the issues in the appeal on the quantum although the matter cannot now be remitted to the High Court for the reasons already stated.
It is undoubtedly the case that in certain circumstances the State is liable to pay compensation to individuals for breach of their constitutional rights. This may be particularly so when the State at the time the damage was caused, were acting unlawfully or with malafides or in misfeasance of public office.
It is an altogether different matter to determine the liability of the State, including its vicarious liability, for acts bona fide done by a Judge exercising his jurisdiction under a law which at the time enjoyed the presumption of constitutionality or other bona fide exercising statutory powers which also enjoyed such a presumption.
In the ordinary course of events a trial for damages only proceeds on the basis of an admission of liability for a known tort or other wrong known to the law and sufficiently identified in the pleadings. This permits a court to assess damage by reference to the established legal parameters of the wrong in question. Thus identifying the tort or cause of action is of fundamental importance enabling as it does issues concerning vicarious liability and remoteness of damage to be resolved by reference to an established body of law or discernible principle. Where a new point of law arises or indeed where a plaintiff asserts a novel right to damages such issues can be argued and determined in the court of trial. If resolved in whole or in part in favour of a plaintiff and damages assessed then, on appeal, this Court is in a position to review the decision of the High Court, including the assessment as to damages, having regard to the legal basis on foot of which the High Court awarded damages.
As has been seen the wrongs alleged by the respondent against the State have been framed under the general rubric of breach of constitutional rights. Generally speaking it can be said that such rights are vindicated through the establishment of well established remedies and causes of action known to the law. Certainly it may be the case that established causes of action may not provide an adequate remedy so as to properly vindicate the breach of the constitutional right. In such circumstances the Courts have jurisdiction to provide a remedy, even if in another form, in order to ensure that a right is vindicated where other necessary criteria for establishing legal liability are established.
Certain dicta of Barrington J., in McDonnell v. Ireland  1 IR 134 seemed to me particularly relevant in this context. That was a case in which the Court as a whole had great difficulty, to say the least, in identifying what, if any, cause of action the plaintiff had in claiming damages for the adverse effects of a statute subsequently found unconstitutional. Because the parties had agreed liability and damages the Court was able to deal with a net contingent issue, namely, whether the statute of limitations applied which it held it did, whatever “the amplitude” of the cause of action. Unlike this case identifying the amplitude of the cause of action was not necessary for the purpose of deciding the point at issue. In that case Barrington J., in his own judgment agreeing with the result made reference to the remedies available for breach of constitutional rights and observed:
“There is no doubt that constitutional rights do not need recognition by the legislature or by common law to be effective. If necessary the Courts will define them and fashion a remedy for their breach.”
“But, at the same time, constitutional rights should not be regarded as wild cards which can be played at any time to defeat all existing rules. If the general law provides an adequate cause of action to vindicate a constitutional right it appears to me that the injured party cannot ask the court to devise a new and different cause of action. Thus the Constitution guarantees citizen’s the right to his or her good name but the cause of action to defend his or her good name is the action of defamation. The injured party, it appears to me, has to accept the action for defamation with all its incidents including the time limit within which the action must be commenced. Likewise the victim of careless driving has the action of negligence by means of which to vindicate his rights.” (emphasis added).
In the light of the foregoing considerations and the manner in which the State admitted liability it is simply impossible for this Court to embark on a consideration of heads of damage or their quantification. To attempt to do so would require the Court to endeavour to make a range of speculative assumptions as to the scope of the liability of the State, and indeed the very principle of such liability, for the adverse effects on individuals generally of a statute declared to be unconstitutional. To endeavour to address issues concerning the review and quantification of damages when the High Court has not identified any legal basis for liability in this case due to the general concession made by the State, would be, at best a dubious exercise in the abstract.
For these reasons I do not consider that the State has demonstrated any valid basis on which it can seek to impugn the decision of the High Court and I would dismiss the appeal.