Tuesday 12 December 2017

High Court grants injunction against Master over referral decision

Ed Honohan, Master of the High Court
Ed Honohan, Master of the High Court

The High Court has granted an injunction against one of its own officers over his decision to refer papers on a case before him to the DPP for a perjury investigation.

Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan, who deals with procedural and other matters relating to cases on their way to a full judge of the High Court, last month told lawyers for AIB he was going to refer papers, in a case brought by the bank, to the DPP for a perjury investigation. 

It related to the contents of an affidavit sworn by an AIB official.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Michael Peart granted AIB an interim injunction preventing Master Honohan acting on his DPP referral decision before the matter comes back before the court later this month.

The judge granted the application, made with only AIB represented, also allowing the bank to seek a wider declaration that the Master has no power under court rules to inquire into the substantive merits of affidavits before him.

Rossa Fanning BL, with Paul Gallagher SC, for AIB, said the matter concerned a case being brought by bank against a solicitor, Angela Farrell, over alleged non-compliance with undertakings she gave to the bank in her professional capacity. 

On May 14 last,  Master Honohan refused to transfer a special summons brought by AIB against Ms Farrell for hearing in the main judge's list of the High Court.  He also said he was referring the papers to the DPP for alleged perjury.

Mr Fanning said when the Master was challenged as to his jurisdiction for doing so, Mr Honahan said he was doing it in his capacity as a private citizen.

Two days later, Mr Fanning himself appeared before the Master and asked for a written order relating to the DPP referral decision but this was declined, counsel said.  Master Honohan repeated that he was doing so as a private citizen.

Mr Fanning said this was frustrating AIB's right of appeal.

Subsequently, Mr Fanning made an application to the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, but he (president) said he could not see how anything could be done other than by way of an application for judicial review, which was what Mr Fanning did yesterday.

The bank official involved, Lynn Hogan, said in an affidavit there was no evidence that the affidavit the Master wanted referred to the DPP was untrue. 

The allegation had cause her significant distress and upset, she said.

Mr Fanning said these proceedings against the Master, with Ms Farrell as notice party, were not brought lightly or with any great satisfaction but were from the bank's  "cumulative frustration as a consequence of of how matters are litigated in the Master's court".

His client's view was that the Master has an important administrative function within the court system but that function is clearly delineated by the rules of the superior courts.

Mr Justice Peart said papers in the matter could be served on the Chief Registrar of the High Court who will be in a position to get them to the Master.

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