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GSK v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Others

Applicant/Plaintiff: G.S.K.
Respondent/Defendant: Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Ireland and Attorney General
Citation/s: [2015] IEHC 852
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Court/s:High Court
Judgment Date/s: 17 December 2015
Judge: MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee
Keywords:Refugee; Refugee Act 1996 Section 16(4)
Country of Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
URL: http://www.courts.ie/Judgments.nsf/0/F94FDA244F2DCF5680257F5300431D5F
Geographical Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant, a national of the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) applied for asylum in Ireland. Her application was unsuccessful at first instance and she appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal affirmed the Commissioner’s recommendation and the applicant sought to challenge it by way of judicial review, claiming inter alia that the Tribunal had acted unlawfully in not allowing her to be accompanied to the appeal hearing by a legal academic suggested by her solicitor. In refusing to allow her to be so accompanied, the Tribunal had relied upon s. 16(14) of the Refugee Act 1996, which stated that “An oral hearing under this section shall be held in private.” The Tribunal considered that allowing the academic to attend the hearing would breach it. 

The High Court upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:
The High Court considered that that was an unnecessarily strict interpretation and had not, in fact, always been applied by the Tribunal, which indicated on affidavit that it had, in the past, permitted an applicant to have the support of a psychologist to assist in some particular way with the presentation by a person at the Tribunal, but on a strict condition that the psychologist could not speak at the hearing. It held that, on a proper interpretation of the provision, some leniency should be displayed by the Tribunal with regard to allowing persons who might wish to attend appeal hearings in order to support the representation of an applicant. The court did not wish to be taken, however, as delivering a decision on the proper meaning of the rule as to privacy in the provision. It held that it was not required to do that because even if it had held that the Tribunal had misinterpreted it, it was unable to detect any mischief or harm caused to the decision-making process on that account. No evidence of any harm had been adduced by the applicant.

Decision:
The High Court upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

The decision indicates that some latitude should be displayed by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal when interpreting s. 16(14) of the Refugee Act 1996 and deciding whether or not to allow a third party to accompany an appellant to an oral hearing.


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