New Appeal: Did the Superior Court Rules Committee act ultra vires in restricting time to apply for certiorari?

In this determination, O’S v Residential Institutions Redress Board & Ors, the Supreme Court granted O’S an extension of time to apply for leave and granted leave for a leapfrog appeal direct from the High Court. The two questions for appeal are:

1. Can a change in jurisprudence on s 8(2) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 (extending time to apply for redress) be grounds for an extension of time for leave to appeal?

2. Did the Superior Court Rules Committee act ultra vires, creating an impermissible restriction on the right of access to the Courts, by restricting the High Court’s discretion to extend time to apply for certiorari under Order 84 Rule 21(3)(b)(i) and (ii)?

 

Background

In 2008, O’S made an application to the Redress Board for treatment he received in an industrial school. Under s 8(1) of the 2002 Act, the statutory period to apply for redress expired in 2005. In 2012, the Board refused O’S’s application for an extension of time under s 8(2) of the 2002 Act. In 2014, O’S requested a consideration of that decision. Later that year, the Board replied that it had exhausted its statutory function. In 2015, O’S requested that the Board reconsider its decision in light of a Supreme Court decision on the Board’s overly narrow interpretation of s 8(2) of the 2002 Act.

In 2016, O’S applied to the High Court for judicial review of the Board’s 2012 decision to refuse an extension of time. In that application, O’S also sought a declaration against the Superior Courts Rules Committee and the Minister for Justice that Order 84 Rule 21(3)(b)(i) and (ii) are an impermissible restriction on the right of access to the Courts.

Order 84 Rule 21 states:

 

Notwithstanding sub-rule (1), the Court may, on an application for that purpose, extend the period within which an application for leave to apply for judicial review may be made, but the Court shall only extend such period if it is satisfied that:—
(3) (a) there is good and sufficient reason for doing so, and
(b) the circumstances that resulted in the failure to make the application for leave within the period mentioned in sub-rule (1) either—
(i) were outside the control of, or
(ii) could not reasonably have been anticipated by the applicant for such extension.
In 2017, the High Court (McDermott J) dismissed O’S’s application. O’S applied to the Supreme Court for leave for a leapfrog appeal.
Supreme Court
As there are ten similar cases which stand adjourned before the High Court, and as Order 84 has general application, the Court determined that O’S had met the constitutional requirement that an appeal raises a legal issue of general importance. And as the Redress Board is required to be dissolved once this case is finalised (plus the ten similar cases), and as an appeal to the Court of Appeal will not narrow the issues to be resolved, the case met the constitutional requirement of presenting exceptional circumstances warranting a leapfrog appeal from the High Court.
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