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Prison officers who claimed promotion selection process was flawed lose court appeal


(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

Five prison officers who claimed a selection process for certain promotional positions was flawed have lost an appeal against the Irish Prison Service (IPS).

The Court of Appeal (CoA) ruled the five - Aisling Dunne, Damian Kelly, Aoife Qunnlivan, Peter Onyemekeihia and Ronan Moran - had not established a legitimate expectation the appointments would be made on merit as a result of fair and transparent processes, in accordance with the public service appointments code of practice.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello, on behalf of the CoA, said the High Court had not erred in making such a finding.  

She also granted a cross-appeal by the IPS seeking dismissal of the proceedings on grounds they had not been brought within the time limits prescribed by court rules.

In May 2013, the IPS ran a competition to enable officers apply for the newly created positions of "work training officers"  dealing with skill sets in areas including crafts, catering, physical education and computers/printing.  It involved the selection of people for placement on panels in each of these areas and from which vacancies which arose over an 18 month period would be filled.

Ms Justice Costello said marks were awarded on the basis of a certain score for qualifications from Junior Cert level up to Higher Doctorate.

However, difficulties arose in relation to the fact that in 2006, the IPS introduced a requirement that all new recruits had to undergo a two year course called a Higher Certificate in Custodial Care (HCCC).

This meant those employed before 2006 did not automatically have that qualification.

The Prison Officers Association (POA) had negotiated an agreement with the IPS in 2007 to avoid disadvantage from this to pre-2006 entrants.

As a result, the interview boards for the promotional positions were advised  the HCCC should not be considered as relevant to the role.

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However, following the interview process, the POA raised an issue to the effect the interview boards had accepted the HCCC as a relevant qualification.

After consulting the Commissioner for Public Service Appointments, the IPS withdrew the selection panels which had been established and then decided, in agreement with the POA, that all candidates would be awarded a minimum 25 marks irrespective of whether or not they held the HCCC.

However, the five prison officers said as a result of this they were disadvantaged by either not being placed on the selection panel or their place on the panel dropping to a lower position.

Following appeals to the public service commission, a report was issued which stated the management of the selection process fell short of the standards required by the code of practice.

In their High Court proceedings, they initially sought orders quashing the results of the selection process but later limited their case to breach of legitimate expectation.

When the High Court rejected that case, they appealed.

On Wednesday, the three-judge CoA also rejected their case.

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