POI v Governor of Cloverhill Prison: Not necessary that detention order be headed “Warrant”

Here, POI v Governor of Cloverhill Prison, the Supreme Court held that:

1. It is not necessary for the document directing the detention of an individual pending deportation to have the word “Warrant” in its heading in order to be valid.

2. A certificate provided in an Article 40.4 enquiry may be amended, as can a warrant where there is an underlying valid basis such as a court order which would justify the detention of an individual. Where there is no other underlying valid basis for the detention other than the document relied on, as in this case, amendments should be confined to trivial errors or mistakes which could not cause any confusion as to the basis for the detention of the individual concerned. The warrant or other document justifying a detention cannot be corrected or amended if the ambiguity on its face reflects a more deep-seated confusion in the proceedings, such as where the true state of affairs is not reliably ascertainable from any source.

3. Consideration should be given to the possibility of a short stay or injunction to restrain deportation to enable the making of an application for leave to appeal to this court, where appropriate, on strict terms to ensure that any such application takes place within an appropriate time frame to facilitate all concerned.

 

Background

The Governor of Cloverhill Prison was holding P pending deportation on a valid, unchallenged order for deportation. P issued Article 40.4.2° (habeas corpus) proceedings in the High Court. He alleged that the order for his detention was invalid, as it was headed “Notification of arrest and detention” instead of “Warrant of arrest and detention”. The High Court (Humphreys J) held that the warrant was defective but that the court had an inherent jurisdiction to permit the amendment of the document. The Governor amended the document heading to “Warrant of arrest and detention”, and Humphreys J held that P’s detention was legal.

The Court of Appeal dismissed P’s appeal and upheld the Governor’s cross appeal. It held that the original document was sufficient to justify P’s detention. It also upheld the High Court’s finding on its inherent jurisdiction to amend.

The Supreme Court determined that P had raised issues of general public importance which met the constitutional threshold for a further appeal to the Supreme Court and certified a number of questions:

1. Must the document required to justify the detention of an individual be headed as a “Warrant of Detention” in order to be valid ?

2. What is the nature of the power to amend a document providing for the detention of an individual relied on in answer to an enquiry under Article 40.4.2° of the Constitution and can a new warrant be provided in place of the original document relied on to justify the detention?

3. Can such new document be backdated to the date of the original detention of the individual or should it be regarded as being in addition to the original documentation provided by way of certificate rather than a substitution thereof?

4. What effect, if any, does backdating have on the validity of the documentation relied on and the steps taken to detain the applicant?

5. Finally, what is the jurisdiction of any Court to grant a stay or an injunction to restrain the deportation of an individual pending appeal when the underlying deportation order has never been challenged?

Dunne J wrote the judgment for a unanimous five judge panel.

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