Rights of Accused at Question in Supreme Court Fair Trial Case

 Commission Appears as Amicus Curiae in Case

Does a suspect have a right to be informed of the allegation against them ahead of being charged, so that they have a chance to explain their view of what happened?

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has today argued before the Supreme Court that investigating authorities should, so far as practicable, put a suspect on notice of any allegation which may result in a charge.

The Commission sets out that the  failure by the investigating authorities to secure the account of an accused can hinder an effective investigation and the overall fairness of a trial. This requirement is, according to the Commission, an aspect of the fair trial right enshrined in Article 38.1 of the Constitution.

The Commission has today appeared before the Supreme Court in its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) function in the case of the Director of Public Prosecutions v. JD. The case centres on a man charged with several offences where only one, a count of endangerment, was an indictable offence, requiring a judge and jury trial.

In November 2017, in Longford Circuit Court, the trial judge considered that fair procedures had not been observed by the Gardaí in failing to interview the man in relation to the indictable offence. The trial Judge directed the jury to find him not guilty in respect of that charge. This case has been appealed through the Court of Appeal and is now before the Supreme Court for ruling.

As amicus curiae, the Commission has made its submissions, bringing forward relevant constitutional, European Court of Human Rights, and EU law stressing that the failure by the investigating authorities to notify and offer an opportunity to the accused to provide an account can impact the fairness of a trial.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

 “The right to fair trial is a fundamental principle of our national justice system and of international human rights law.

“This case focuses on when and how a person should have the opportunity to give their account during a criminal investigation, and before they are charged with an offence.

“The Commission has set out to the Supreme Court that investigators should offer and facilitate an early opportunity for someone accused of a crime to set out issues that could later, if the person is charged, support their defence.”

 ENDS/

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Editor’s Note

The full written legal submissions filed by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in this Supreme Court case are available at the following link:

https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2021/10/JD-Supreme-Court-Amicus-Curiae-Filed-Submissions-IHREC.pdf 

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

 

 

 

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