IHREC notes judgment of High Court in housing case stands after Supreme Court appeals withdrawn

The Supreme Court appeals in the case of Pullen & Ors v Dublin City Council, were withdrawn today with the effect that the High Court Judgment in the case stands.

The case concerned the summary eviction procedure applied by local authorities to their tenants. While the law in this area changed in 2014, the High Court judgment is nonetheless a significant precedent in terms of the domestic application of the European Convention on Human Rights and clarifying the remedies that may follow where a Court finds that rights under the Convention have been breached by an organ of the State.

In the High Court it was found that Dublin City Council had failed to discharge its functions in compliance with its statutory obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights Act, 2003, insofar as the relevant statutory procedure relied on did not allow the tenants in the case to defend against the loss of their family home, and there was no independent mechanism available to adjudicate on the merits of the proposed eviction. Each of the tenants was awarded €20,000 in damages for the breach of their rights.

The Irish Human Rights Commission appeared in the case as Amicus Curiae at the invitation of the High Court, and brought relevant case law and human rights standards to the attention of the Court. In its submissions prepared for the Supreme Court the Commission also sought to draw the attention of the Court to the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights Act, 2003, and the remedies provided under that Act, and questioned whether there was an obligation on the Court, when considering the validity of legislation under the 2003 Act, to also consider whether the legislation first complies with Irish constitutional standards. This issue remains to be determined by the Courts.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner, welcoming the settlement of the appeals before the Supreme Court, stated:  “The High Court judgment in this case is very significant and is now a leading case in relation to the application of the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic law. Not only does the judgment set out very clearly the importance of the protection afforded to the family home under the Convention, but also places an obligation on local authorities, and other organs of the State, to follow fair procedures where their actions have the potential to interfere with the Convention rights of the individual.

“The duties imposed on organs of the State under the 2003 Act have been further expanded in the new public duty under section 42 of the Human Rights and Equality Commission Act, 2014. The public duty obliges public bodies to have regard to the elimination of discrimination, the promotion of equality of opportunity and the need to protect human rights in the performance of their functions. The Judgment of the High Court is extremely important in highlighting the increasing centrality of taking into account human rights and equality standards when public bodies are performing their functions and engaging with the public. This Commission will be taking a leading role in increasing awareness of the public duty and promoting a culture of respect for human rights and equality in how public bodies do their business, and judgments such as Pullen provide very valuable guidance from the Courts in this regard.”

The submissions of the Commission are available at http://www.ihrec.ie/publications/list/amicus-curiae-submission-pullen-and-ors-v-dublin-c/

Ends/

For further information please contact Sile Murphy, Q4PR, sile@q4pr.ie, Mobile 086 028 8132

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Notes for Editors

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) is accredited as an A status national human rights organisation by the International Coordination Committee (ICC), a global network of national human rights institutions. The ICC coordinates the relationship between the NHRIs and the United Nations human rights system by reviewing and accrediting the compliance of NHRIs with the UN Paris Principles.

The Irish Human Rights Commission was established by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in the State, to promote a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding and to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality. The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality and with making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality accordingly.

The IHREC published its 2016-2018 Strategy Statement on 26 January 2016. It can be downloaded at http://www.ihrec.ie/download/pdf/strategystatement.pdf

Relevant Legislation

Section 62 of the Housing Act 1966 (as amended) provided for summary proceedings before the District Court for the repossession of a local authority dwelling. The District Court Judge was not charged with examining the merits of the decision by the local authority to end the tenancy, and was limited to ensuring that the paper work was in order. Section 62 was repealed and replaced by Part 2 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014, which now provides for an eviction procedure in conformity with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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