Court of Appeal: Man who complained of ‘establishment bias’ fails to bring action against DPP and district judge
A man who complained of “widespread establishment bias” against him has lost an appeal against the refusal to grant him leave to bring judicial review proceedings against the Director of Public Prosecutions and a District Court judge.
Upholding the High Court’s decision, Mr Justice John Edwards said that even if the DPP did not have partial immunity, the man had failed to satisfy the low threshold for leave, and that his complaints about the District Court judge were entirely baseless.
In June 2018, Reginald Carroll sought leave to apply, by way of judicial review, for various reliefs in respect of “two entirely separate matters”.
The first matter concerned a decision taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute two of Mr Carroll’s neighbours. Mr Carroll had complained of “incidents of alleged harassment, assaults, trespasses to his property, and threats to kill him”. In November 2016, the DPP informed Mr Carroll that the decision had been made not to prosecute as there was “insufficient evidence”.
Mr Carroll sought leave to apply for judicial review for several reliefs, including an order of certiorari, quashing the decision of the DPP, and an order of mandamus to compel the DPP to initiate prosecutions.
The second mater concerned criminal proceedings before Clifden District Court, presided over by Judge Mary Fahy. The proceedings involved the prosecution of Mr Carroll for alleged dangerous driving and driving without insurance. Mr Carroll complained that Judge Fahy was requested to recuse herself on the grounds of alleged bias on two occasions (in February and April 2018), but that she refused to do so.
Consequently, Mr Carroll sought leave to apply for judicial review for a number of reliefs, including an Order of Prohibition preventing the proceedings from continuing before Judge Fahy, or an Order of Mandamus requiring the District Court to facilitate a request by him to be afforded a trial by jury.
Refusal to grant leave
In the High Court in October 2018, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan refused to grant leave to Mr Carroll.
The Court heard that Mr Carroll had a history of disputes with gardaí, alleging that they were racist towards him because he is English, and that their animus against him is a consequence of them being friends with his neighbours. Mr Carroll made allegations of Garda harassment, and asked the Court to consider “evidence of widespread establishment bias against him”.
Court of Appeal
Considering the appeal brought by Mr Carroll, Mr Justice Edwards outlined the test to be applied at the leave stage in judicial reviews, as set forth in G v Director of Public Prosecutions  1 IR 32:
- that the applicant has sufficient interest in the matter to comply with Order 84 rule 20(4);
- that the facts averred in the affidavit would be sufficient, if proved, to support a stateable ground in the form of relief sought;
- that, on those facts, an arguable case in law can be made that the applicant is entitled to the relief sought;
- that the application has been made promptly and within time limits provided for in Order 84 rule 21(1), or that the Court is satisfied that there is a good reason for extending the time limit;
- that on the facts established by the applicant, the only effective remedy would be an order by way of judicial review; or, if there is an alternative remedy, that the application by way of judicial review is a more appropriate method of procedure.
Partial immunity from judicial review
Firstly dealing with the leave being sought against the DPP, Mr Justice Edwards explained the partial immunity from judicial review enjoyed by the DPP.
Finding that the High Court was correct to refuse leave, Mr Justice Edwards said the DPP’s stated reason of “insufficient evidence” must be taken at face value unless Mr Carroll can “demonstrate something like mala fides, an improper motive, the application of an improper policy by the DPP or some other exceptional circumstance that would justify interference by a court”. Mr Justice Edwards said that Mr Carroll had failed to do any of these things.
Stating that he would not grant leave even if the special protection enjoyed by the DPP did not apply, Mr Justice Edwards said that Mr Carroll had failed to meet the low threshold in G v Director of Public Prosecutions.
A scrupulously fair hearing
Turning to the decision to refuse leave for relief against Judge Fahy, Mr Justice Edwards said that Mr Carroll was extremely vague in his reasoning as to why it would have been necessary for Judge Fahy to recuse herself. Mr Carroll made various accusations of Judge Fahy having acted “with Malfides (sic) and perverted the course of justice” and having a “history of abuse of powers” – however, there was “simply no objective evidence” to support Mr Carroll’s claims.
Having read the court transcript, Mr Justice Edwards said that Judge Fahy had, at all times, treated Mr Carroll “courteously and respectfully”, and “exhibited scrupulous fairness”. He said that Judge Fahy “demonstrated considerable patience and allowed [Mr Carroll], who was representing himself, full rein within the rules of evidence to cross-examine the witnesses called against him”. Mr Justice Edwards said that Judge Fahy was “entirely right not to have recused herself, as there was no basis for her having to do so”.
Considering all of the above, Mr Justice Edwards dismissed the appeal.
© Irish Legal News Ltd 2020