Facts: The applicants had applied for refugee status in the State. The assessment of their applications at first instance involved the use of independent contractors known as “panel members” who had been engaged by the International Protection Officer to interview applicants and prepare draft reports in respect of applications for international protection. The applicants instituted judicial review proceedings challenging the use of panel members, on the basis that the practice in respect of the use of panel members was not in conformity with the stuatory regime. The High Court ( IEHC 21) dismissed the challenge but the applicants were granted leave to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
Decision: The Supreme Court rejected the challenge to the legality of the system of using panel members appointed by way of contract to assist in the processing of applications for refugee status under the Refugee Act 1996 and applications for refugee status and subsidiary protection under the International Protection Act 2015. Effectively, the appellants complained that the investigation of their applications for refugee status and subsidiary protection, and the preparation of a report in respect of those applications, was not carried out by an authorised officer of the Refugee Applications Commissioner/International Protection Officer as required by the legislation, because in fact those functions were being carried out by independently appointed panel members. O’Donnell J was satisfied, having regard to the extensive affidavits and exhibits put before the court by the respondents, that the investigation of the application for international protection and preparation of first instance reports was done in accordance with the statutory scheme and there was therefore no illegality in the manner in which panel members were employed as part of the process.