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The High Court: Full costs awarded to partially successful applicants in judicial review

Posted in News on 13th January 2021

A recent case has occurred where the High Court has granted an order for full costs, even though the applicants experienced some success in their proceedings for judicial review. The court based their reasoning for this on the fact that the case was of “general public importance”, which raised fundamental issues regarding journalistic privilege and freedom of expression. The Judge considered how to properly balance the prosecution of criminal cases against the public interest of a free press.

Case-facts:

A journalist, the first applicant, working for the The Democrat, published by the second applicant, Oncor Ventures Limited attended the scene of a major criminal incident in Roscommon in December 2018. The incident involved the assault of a number of people who had evicted occupants of a house by court order and where a group of vehicles were set on fire. The applicant  recorded the events on his phone. The gardaí, in trying to  charge the individuals involved  in the assault, were granted a warrant to seize the journalist’s phone. The applicants pursued judicial review proceedings against the gardaí on this basis. in order to stop the examination of the contents of the phone.

Costs:

The court made a full costs order in favour of the applicants, as they did not want to deter applicants or limit judicial review of constitutional issues to cases where there was only a financial implication for parties, or where money was at issue, such as commercial contracts or rights in land. This is a welcome consideration, and seems that the court supports brining judicial review where there is concerns other than financial.

Conclusion:

The court come to the conclusion to grant full costs to the applicants, in addition to granting an injunction against the gardaí in order to prevent them from accessing all data on the applicant’s mobile phone, and instead confining them to specific aspects of data on the phone, which was not made explicit in the principal judgment.

It is noted that both orders are not final, until the outcome of an appeal brought by both applicants.