Statement of Opposition in Judicial Review Must State Precisely Each Ground of Opposition

Judicial review proceedings are governed by Order 84 of the Rules of the Superior Courts. Order 84, Rule 22 (5) states:

"(5) It shall not be sufficient for a respondent in his statement of opposition to deny generally the grounds alleged by the statement grounding the application, but the respondent should state precisely each ground of opposition, giving particulars where appropriate, identify in respect of each such ground the facts or matters relied upon as supporting that ground, and deal specifically with each fact or matter relied upon in the statement grounding the application of which he does not admit the truth (except damages, where claimed)."

In the present case the applicant sought to strike out a statement of opposition made in response to his application for judicial review.

Background

The applicant was a school teacher who was the subject of a number of investigations into abuse allegations. The Child and Family Agency (CFA) received a number of referrals in relation to the applicant, and solicitors for the applicant wrote to the CFA requesting that they identify precisely the allegations being made. The applicant was informed that the matter rested with the CFA's office of legal services who then proposed to commence a ‘fresh assessment’ of outstanding allegations against the applicant.

The applicant commenced judicial review proceedings seeking, inter alia, to restrain the CFA from engaging in a fresh assessment without having first particularised the allegations being made against him. The CFA filed a statement of opposition denying that it had failed to adequately particularise the allegations made against the Applicant.

Judgment

Eager J held that the applicant was entitled to know the allegations being made against him. Here, information which was crucial to the applicant’s case, had not been set out on affidavit by the CFA. Eager J was of the view that the contention that the applicant had been provided with all the documentation the CFA intended to rely upon in their assessment was unsustainable where none of that documentation had been exhibited in the statement of opposition.

Eager J pointed out that the Rules were amended specifically to require a party filing a statement of opposition (and thereby indicating its intention to defend the application) to identify the issues in the case, and to identify in respect of each ground, the facts or matters relied upon as supporting that ground, and to deal specifically with each fact or matter relied upon in the statement grounding the application of which he does not admit the truth.

In the present case, the framing of the statement of opposition had led to an unnecessary prolonging of proceedings, where the Court had to engage in a review of lengthy correspondence which was an inappropriate task for the Court, and a waste of time and resources.

Accordingly, Eagar J struck out the CFA's statement of opposition and ordered it to submit a statement of opposition in compliance with the Rules.

SB v The Child and Family Agency [2017] IEHC 50

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Date Published: 21 February 2017