Quinn v Athlone Town Council: No breach of Convention rights as claimant did not object to impugned order

Here, Quinn v Athlone Town Council, the Supreme Court dismissed Quinn’s action seeking damages for breach of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights as she had not objected to the Council’s application for the order of mandamus which she alleged had caused that breach.

 

Background

Quinn was a tenant of Athlone Town Council. In 2008, the Council issued a summons under s 62 of the Housing Act 1966 seeking possession of the rented property from Quinn on grounds of antisocial behaviour. In 2009, the Council began legal proceedings in the District Court on foot of that ejectment summons. Quinn applied to the High Court for judicial review seeking a number of reliefs, including a declaration that s 62 is incompatible with the ECHR and that the Council didn’t perform its function in compliance with the State’s obligations under the ECHR. The case continued before the District Court, where Quinn was represented. The District Court adjourned the case on a number of occasions during 2009 on undertakings from Quinn that she would not engage in antisocial behaviour.

In frustration at the District Court’s adjournments, the Council applied to the High Court for an order of mandamus directing the District Court to grant the Council an order for possession. Quinn’s solicitor wrote to the Council advising that she would not be participating in these proceedings. The High Court granted the order sought, and the Council recovered possession of the property.

In 2010, the High Court delivered judgment dismissing Quinn’s application. The trial judge held that Quinn issued proceedings out of time: she should have done so when the Council issued the notice to quit. That Quinn had given no convincing reasons for the Court to extend time. And Quinn had acquiesced in the District Court proceedings.

Quinn appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. (That was pre-33rd Amendment, so there was a right of appeal).

 

Supreme Court

Although Quinn had lost possession of the property, she argued that the appeal was not moot, as her proceedings before the High Court included a claim for damages.

Dunne J wrote the judgment for a unanimous five judge panel. Dismissing Quinn’s appeal, she stated:

How can Ms. Quinn be entitled to damages for an alleged breach of her European Convention rights in circumstances where she did not oppose the making of that order in the related judicial review proceedings? What possible breach of her rights could have occurred in circumstances where she was ultimately evicted on foot of a valid court order made following an unopposed application for mandamus? Quite simply, it seems to me that there could be no breach of Ms. Quinn’s right under the European Convention where she was evicted on foot of a valid warrant of execution. Thus, it seems to me that the question of damages for an alleged breach of her rights under the European Convention simply cannot arise.

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