Cases Undertaken by the PILS Project

In the Matter of an Application by Eamonn MacDermott for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) and In the Matter of an Application by Raymond Pius McCartney for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) 2011 UKSC 18.

The PILS Project supported a case in which the United Kingdom Supreme Court clarified the definition of a miscarriage of justice for the purposes of claiming compensation.

Sponsor NGO: Coiste

Facts: In 2007, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal quashed the criminal convictions of two men, finding miscarriages of justice in each case. The Appellants applied for compensation under s133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, but were denied by the Secretary of State.

The decisions to refuse compensation were unsuccessfully challenged by Judicial Review before the High Court and Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. The matter was then brought before the United Kingdom Supreme Court.  The majority held that a ‘miscarriage of justice’ had occurred for the purposes of s 133 when a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that the evidence against a defendant has been so undermined that no conviction could possibly be based upon it.

Impact: This case might assist anyone in the United Kingdom who has suffered a miscarriage of justice, and could profoundly affect a large number of people in this jurisdiction, in the aftermath of conflict.

In The Matter of Applications by Siegnerella Elaine Flaneur and Siegnette Elaine Flaneur for Judicial Review [2011] NICA 72

Dutch sisters successfully argued that the decisions to issue deportation orders to them infringed their right to move and reside freely, under Article 18 of the EC Treaty.

Sponsor NGO: Law Centre (NI)

Facts: The appellants were Dutch sisters who were arrested and prosecuted for smuggling cocaine into Belfast International Airport. They were sentenced to three years and two and half years’ imprisonment. The Secretary of State made deportation orders against the sisters. Although it was noted that there was a low risk of re-offending, they had been convicted of extremely serious offences and the nature of the offence was such as to engage the Secretary of State’s guidelines on public policy and public security.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the Secretary of State had:

(a) failed to explain how she concluded there was a greater risk than that found in the pre-sentence reports and other assessments, and;

(b) made factual errors when explaining her decision (including a failure to acknowledge the previous positive educational and employment histories of the sisters).

Given the importance of the rights to reside and move freely, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal upheld the sisters’ challenge to their deportation.

Impact: This judgment could have significant ramifications for any EU national facing expulsion from the UK after serving a prison sentence. It provides vital clarification to government agencies and to individual members of society who are at risk of deportation at the end of serving a custodial sentence in Northern Ireland, and possibly right across the UK.

In the Matter of an Application by Colaiste Feirste for Judicial Review of a Decision by the Department of Education Relating to School Transport [2011] NIQB 72

Irish Medium language school successfully challenged a failure by the Department of Education to put in place adequate transport arrangements.

Sponsor NGO: Pobal

Facts: This case was taken forward by Colma McKee, Vice Chairperson of the Board of an Irish Language Medium School in Belfast. The Applicant claimed that the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) had breached its statutory duty to encourage and facilitate education in the Irish language, under Article 89 of the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 by failing to provide adequate transport to pupils in rural areas.

The failure to provide adequate transport meant it was extremely difficult for pupils and would-be pupils of Coláiste Feirste living outside Belfast who wished to undertake their education in the medium of the Irish language to do so.  

The High Court found in favour of the applicant. The Court concluded that the imposition of the statutory duty to promote the Irish language was not ‘merely aspirational’ but rather ‘has and is intended to have practical consequences and legislative significance.’

It was further decided that the Department of Education ‘...failed to give proper weight and consideration to its obligation under Art 89 to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish language Medium education.’ Therefore, the Court compelled DENI to give further consideration to the transport issue in the post primary Irish medium education sector in light of the court’s ruling.

Impact: The judgment brings into focus the statutory obligations of government towards the promotion of education in the Irish language. It also underscores the duty to provide transport as a fundamental requisite to the fulfilment of such a duty.

In the Matter of an Application by JR 47 for Judicial Review [2013] NIQB 7

Important legal victory concerning the resettlement of long stay hospital patients in Northern Ireland.

Sponsor NGO: Law Centre (NI)

Facts: This case concerned a challenge to the Department of Health’s failure to carry out an assessment of need and where appropriate to resettle people with learning difficulties from Muckamore Abbey Hospital back into the community within a reasonable time frame.

The Applicant was made subject to a Hospital Order under the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order in 1997. He was detained in Muckamore Abbey Hospital, outside Belfast. In 2000, the Applicant became a voluntary patient, and therefore was eligible for resettlement in the community. However, only 2 possibilities materialised within an 11 year period, both of which were unsuitable.

The legal challenge was initially unsuccessful before the High Court and was appealed to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. The appeal was allowed and the case was remitted back to the High Court for a fresh hearing and decision which the High Court handed down in January 2013. The Court held that the Department and the Trust owed a legal duty to assess and review, on a regular basis, the community care needs of long stay residents in learning disability hospitals.

Impact: The judgment will affect not only those vulnerable individuals who are currently in Muckamore Hospital waiting to be resettled but may also be relevant to those who have previously been resettled in the community. The decision may also affect people in a similar situation in different facilities across Northern Ireland as well as in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Family Planning Association and Pregnancy Termination Guidelines

The Department of Health agreed to circulate guidelines to medical professionals on the termination of pregnancy almost a decade after the Court order directing it to do so was made.

Sponsor NGO: Family Planning Association

Facts: In 2004, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal directed the Department of Health to issue guidelines to healthcare professionals on the circumstances when a pregnancy termination can be carried out.

By December 2012, the Department of Health had still not complied with the Court’s decision.

Judicial review proceedings were brought by the Family Planning Association, in its own name, challenging the continuing failure of the Department of Health to issue guidelines to medical professionals in this area.

Shortly before the hearing was scheduled to take place in March 2013, the Department of Health stated that the guidelines had been drafted. Consideration is now being given to the responses before finalised guidelines are approved.

Impact: This is an important development on an issue that has attracted considerable media and political attention. It is an issue the Family Planning Association has dedicated its resources towards for over a decade and the case shows the powerful effect litigation can have in holding government to account.

In the Matter of an Application by DE for Judicial Review

PSNI will re-issue an enhanced criminal record certificate following the initiation of legal action.


Facts: The applicant experienced difficulties in his employment following a disclosure contained in an enhanced criminal record check carried out by Access NI. The PSNI had not only disclosed non-conviction information on an Enhanced Disclosure check, but also refused to cite the source of that information to enable the applicant to respond appropriately.

Leave for judicial review was granted by the Court in January 2013 and the case was listed for hearing in June 2013. The case settled shortly before the hearing was to take place. The respondent agreed to quash the enhanced criminal record certificate and a fresh certificate will be issued in the near future.

Impact: This Judicial Review pertained to an area of law that is attracting increasing attention. A number of cases regarding the disclosure of information on enhanced criminal records certificates have come before the Courts, both in Northern Ireland and in England and Wales. This case could have an effect upon the policy and internal practices of the PSNI when issuing enhanced criminal record certificates in the future.

In the Matter of an Application by the Committee on the Administration of Justice and In the Matter of a Decision of the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland communicated on 28 February 2013 and 9 April 2013 (2014) NIQB 67

The High Court held that a decision by the Parole Commissioners of Northern Ireland to refuse access to a representative of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) to observe a parole hearing was unlawful. 

Sponsor NGO: Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)

Facts: CAJ applied to the Parole Commissioners of Northern Ireland (PCNI), under Rule 22(4) of the Parole Commissioners’ Rules (NI) 2009, to monitor a parole hearing of a prisoner.   The PCNI refused the request, stating that the close monitoring of proceedings was not enough to merit having a representative attend and monitor a PCNI hearing.

The High Court held that the PCNI had considered the request by referring themselves to the incorrect rule.  It was clear that the request to send a representative as an observer was considered by the PCNI under Rule 7(8) instead of Rule 22(4).  The Court held these were clearly different tests with different considerations. The PCNI had misdirected themselves in law and could not have weighed the factors relevant to the Rule.  The decision in this case to refuse access to a representative of the CAJ was therefore unlawful.

Impact: This decision has the potential to be a very important one in ensuring that not only is justice done, it is also seen to be done.  This judgment could help to ensure that legal proceedings continue to be subject to public scrutiny, as they ought to be.

In the matter of an application by Drumragh Integrated College for judicial review (2014)NIQB 69

The PILS Project provided legal and financial support to a case successfully challenging the failure of the Department of Education to understand and implement its statutory duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education. 

Sponsor NGO: Integrated Education Fund

Facts: This case concerned a challenge to the approach taken by the Department of Education to a development plan submitted by Drumragh Integrated College to increase pupil numbers.  The Applicant claimed that the Department of Education had failed to consider its statutory duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education, under Article 64 of the Education Reform (NI) Order 1989 and the Good Friday Agreement.  The applicant also claimed that the Department’s education planning process failed to incorporate the statutory duty.    

The High Court found in favour of the Applicant.  The Court held that integrated education was a standalone concept and plainly envisages education together at the same school.  It also held that an integrated school strives to achieve an equal balance in relation to worship, celebration and exposure to both faiths.  This is reflected in its constitution, and the Board of Governors must strive in its ethos to achieve this.  Integrated education, referred to in Article 64, is education that is integrated throughout and not education that is delivered by a ‘partisan board’.   

The Court ruled that the Department of Education’s ‘Needs Model’, which underpins area-based planning, was ‘inflexible’ and provided an ‘additional difficulty’ impeding the expansion of integrated schools.   This creation of an ‘additional difficulty’ is the ‘opposite of encouraging and facilitating’. 

The Court concluded that the Department of Education needed to be ‘….alive to the Art. 64 duty, at all levels, including the strategic level.’

Impact: This judgment is extremely significant in clarifying the wide-reaching statutory obligation of government towards the promotion of integrated education to include the strategic planning level which has always assumed up to this point that there would be no growth in the integrated sector.  

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