An appeal against a significant ruling in favour of convicted murderer Graham Dwyer and the sentencing of two teenage boys for the murder of schoolgirl Ana Kriégel are among the high-profile cases due before the courts in the new legal year, which opens next week.
The HSE is involved in a number of key actions with far-reaching implications, including its Supreme Court appeal against a judgment in favour of Ruth Morrissey, who has cervical cancer, which will impact on the work of the Cervical Check tribunal and other cases over cervical smears.
In the Criminal Courts of Justice the sentencing hearing of two teenage boys for the murder of Ms Kriégel resumes in late October. The teenagers, known as Boy A and Boy B, were found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court last June of murdering Ms Kriégel on May 14th, 2018. Boy A was also convicted of aggravated sexual assault.
Ms Kriégel’s body, naked apart from a pair of socks, was found by gardaí in a derelict farmhouse in Lucan, Co Dublin, on May 17th, 2018, three days after she was reported missing by her parents.
Following the guilty verdicts in June, Mr Justice Paul McDermott remanded the boys in custody to Oberstown detention centre, and adjourned the sentencing hearing to October. He will hear psychiatric and other evidence, plus victim impact statements from Ms Kriegel's parents Patrick and Geraldine Kriégel, before deciding sentence.
A 16-year-old boy who earlier this year admitted attempting to murder a young woman in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, two days before Christmas 2017, is the subject of a separate sentencing hearing at the Criminal Courts of Justice on October 8th.
Mr Justice Michael White has heard evidence from a consultant forensic psychiatrist, and will hear submissions from the defence on October 7th, before imposing sentence.
The court previously heard Stephanie Ng (25) and the boy, then aged 15, first made contact on the Whisper app. The boy told her he was 19 and they arranged to meet in Dún Laoghaire on the afternoon of December 23rd, 2017, and eventually ended up on the seafront near a disused swimming baths site.
While Ms Ng was facing the sea, the boy grabbed her from behind and started choking her with his right hand. She passed out and when she woke up realised her throat had been cut.
She struggled to higher ground, where she alerted a passerby and was brought to hospital.
In the civil courts the Supreme Court has to decide the State’s appeal against a key ruling which could benefit Graham Dwyer in his forthcoming criminal appeal against his conviction for the murder of childcare worker Elaine O’Hara.
Dwyer’s separate appeal against his conviction remains on hold pending the outcome of the State’s appeal against a High Court decision upholding Dwyer’s challenge to the prosecution’s use of mobile phone data in his criminal trial.
The High Court found part of the State’s data retention laws concerning information generated by phones contravenes EU law and provides for an indiscriminate data retention regime.
As well as being important for Dwyer, the State says the ruling has major implications for the authorities’ ability to retain, access and use information generated by mobile phones in the investigation of serious criminal activities.
The Supreme Court will hear an appeal in November with far-reaching implications for the work of the Cervical Check tribunal and dozens of cases by women with cervical cancer.
The HSE and two US laboratories – Quest Diagnostics Ireland Ltd and Medlab Pathology Ltd – have appealed a High Court decision in favour of Limerick woman Ruth Morrissey, who has cervical cancer, and her husband Paul.
The appellants are concerned about the High Court finding that screeners should have “absolute confidence” both about the adequacy of a cervical slide sample and that a test result has no abnormalities before they pass it as clear.
The focus of the appeal will be on exactly what standard of care applies in cervical cancer screening, and whether the HSE has liability for the acts and omissions of lab screeners.
This has implications for the Cervical Check tribunal as it has been asked to assess legal liability in cervical cancer cases.
Whatever the outcome of the appeal, the State has assured the Morrisseys they will retain an award of €2.1 million damages made to them by the High Court.
Ms P case
A damages claim by the family of Ms P, a brain-dead pregnant woman kept on life support for almost four weeks due to concerns about the Eighth Amendment, is due before the High Court in November. The family are suing over her death, alleging failure by a regional hospital to diagnose a brain cyst that ruptured, leaving the 26-year-old woman brain dead.
They also want damages, asserting they – and she – were left in “limbo” due to uncertainty about the legal position of her 15-week-old unborn child.
The HSE has admitted partial liability concerning a fatal dependency claim advanced by her widowed father for her dependants. It denies liability for damages for nervous shock over the death of Ms P and her continuation on life support until the family got court orders allowing the support to be turned off.
After a hearing in Christmas week 2014, a three-judge High Court ruled the life support could be ended as the only prospect for the unborn was “distress and death”. Ms P, described as having a rotting brain and an open infected head wound, was buried afterwards in a closed coffin.
The HSE, the Minister for Health, pharmaceutical giant Glaxosmithkline (GSM) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority all dispute liability in a High Court case by a young woman who claims she contracted narcolepsy from a human swine flu vaccine.
Opening on October 8th, the case is regarded as a test case for up to 100 similar actions over the Pandemrix vaccine manufactured by GSM.
Also on October 8th, an appeal over a hugely controversial High Court decision with far-reaching implications for those applying for Irish citizenship is due before the Court of Appeal.
The Minister for Justice has moved to introduce laws to address the impact of the High Court finding that applicants for citizenship cannot leave the jurisdiction in the year before they apply.
The case concerns an Australian man, Roderick Jones, who works in the university sector here. He challenged the Minister's decision refusing him citizenship because he was out of the State for 100 days in the year before he applied.
In upholding the Minister’s refusal, the High Court said the words “continuous residence” in section 15.1.c of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act means any applicant for citizenship must have “unbroken” residence in the State for a year before they apply.
That finding caused consternation and, although the appeal is by Mr Jones, the State wants the Court of Appeal to find against him on a different basis than the High Court did.
The housing rights of separated parents with access to their children is at the centre of a Supreme Court appeal in November. The outcome could affect hundreds of separated parents and the housing obligations of local authorities.
A separated father, with shared custody and overnight access to his three children, has appealed against the High Court’s rejection of his challenge to Dublin City Council’s classification of him as a single-person household whose housing need was for a one-bedroom unit.
The High Court said the council was lawfully entitled to take into account having made accommodation available for the man’s ex-partner and children and its desire to ensure efficient use of its housing resources.
The case centres on interpretation of section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 in the context of the entitlement to be considered for social housing.
The man gets a single-person monthly housing assistance payment (HAP) while the council assessed his ex-partner as a separated mother entitled to up to €1,900 HAP. He claims the council is operating an unfair and discriminatory housing scheme in classifying separated fathers as “single” persons when allocating housing.
INM data breach
Back in the High Court, much attention will centre on the final report of the inspectors appointed in September 2018 to investigate a data breach in 2014 at Independent News & Media and other matters. The inspectors hope to have their final report completed early next year.
INM is being separately sued by its former CEO Gavin O’Reilly and others arising from the data breach.