Man loses challenge to law on blocking water meter installations

Stephen Bennett’s lawyers claimed DPP not meant to prosecute cases under Water Services Act

A Dublin man has lost his latest legal challenge on whether the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has powers to bring people to court for obstructing the installation of water meters.

A Dublin man has lost his latest legal challenge on whether the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has powers to bring people to court for obstructing the installation of water meters.

 

A Dublin man has lost his latest legal challenge on whether the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has powers to bring people to court for obstructing the installation of water meters.

Lawyers for Stephen Bennett, of Pearse Green, Sallynoggin, Dublin, had contended that only Irish Water could prosecute offences under Water Services legislation and not the DPP.

Mr Bennet’s lawyers submitted that the language of the Water Services Act 2007 “clearly suggests” that the prosecutor would be a water service authority or a person designated under the act.

It was suggested that had the DPP been the envisaged prosecutor, then the section would not have been enacted in the way it was.

They contended that the well known legal maxim “expression unius exclusion alterius” - to express one thing is to exclude another - applied to water services legislation. Moreover, they said, at its height, the DPP’s power to prosecute was ambiguous and not beyond doubt.

No ambiguity

The High Court rejected Mr Bennett’s challenge last year holding that there was no ambiguity in the Water Services Acts.

Upholding the High Court’s decisionon Monday, the president of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said he was in complete agreement with the High Court judge’s approach.

Like him, Mr Justice Birmingham said he could find no ambiguity whatsoever. “I can find no hint of a suggestion that the normal jurisdiction of the DPP is ousted”.

He said the legal maxim — to express one thing is to exclude another — had no real relevance. Rather, he said, the general responsibility of the DPP to initiate proceedings in respect of crimes committed within the State is “so well-established that it would require very real language indeed to ouster the jurisdiction of the Director”.

There was a long line of unbroken authority, dating back to the early years of the State, on the entitlement of the DPP to prosecute.

In summary, Mr Justice Birmingham said he was satisfied that the DPP was entitled to commence summary proceedings.

Mr Bennett’s lawyers were not present in court for delivery of the judgment. Counsel for the State, Mary Linehan BL, told the court that no issue as to costs arose as Mr Bennett has been legally aided.