MM v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Another

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice and Law Reform
Court/s:High Court
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:10 Mar 2015
Judge:Faherty J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Refugee
Country of Origin:Egypt
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/3ee49865-6250-46aa-beaa-0dcf57b01565/2015_IEHC_158_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a national of Egypt who claimed asylum in Ireland. He claimed to fear persecution from the authorities in Egypt because he formed part of a small Shia minority. He said that he had been detained on a number of occasions there and ill-treated, which included sexual abuse. He submitted a SPIRASI report in support of his claim, which found his physical and mental presentation to be highly consistent with it. His physical examination revealed no scars, but it was considered that any bruising would have healed. An examination of his mental state found symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It also explained that he had difficulty discussing his sexual abuse.

Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it, which was affirmed by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision the applicant challenged in these proceedings.

The Tribunal found that his claim lacked credibility. It drew an adverse inference from his failure to mention his sexual abuse in his interaction with the Commissioner. It also found discrepancies in the length of the periods of detention to which he was allegedly subject in Egypt. It found it difficult to conclude that the findings in the SPIRASI report were related to ill-treatment at the hands of the authorities in Egypt.

The applicant contended that the Tribunal erred in classing the SPIRASI report as being dependent on the applicant, and failed to appreciate its status as an independent report. He submitted that it failed to conduct a rational analysis of the medical and psychological evidence which supported his claim, and to explain why, in the light thereof, his credibility was not accepted or the medical evidence rejected. He also argued that, when making an adverse credibility finding based on his failure to disclose his sexual abuse to the Commissioner, the Tribunal overlooked the SPIRASI report which indicated that he found it difficult to discuss it and that PTSD could include a tendency to avoid discussing abuse or even remembering it.

The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:
The court rejected the applicant’s argument that the Tribunal considered the SPIRASI report to lack independence. Rather, the question was whether it had properly considered it. In the court’s view, the Tribunal did not engage in any substantive manner with the contents of the report. None of the medical findings was recited in its decision, which was restricted to noting the author’s dependency on the applicant to ground his various conclusions.

The report’s findings did not weigh with the Tribunal in any regard to counter the negative credibility findings set out in the decision. The salient feature of the medical report was the finding that the results of the applicant’s physical and mental state examination were “highly consistent” with the account given by him. They were independent of the applicant and were capable of providing potential objective confirmation of his account. Whilst the weight to be attached to them was a matter solely for the Tribunal, it had not engaged with them in any substantive way.

In assessing whether or not a satisfactory explanation had been provided for not disclosing his sexual abuse at an earlier stage of the process, the court held that the Tribunal had wrongly failed to have regard to the SPIRASI report, which was capable of shedding light on that. In all the circumstances, it was incumbent on the Tribunal to afford a more detailed consideration to the report and to provide cogent reasons for rejecting its probative value.

Decision:
The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:


When assessing a medical report, a decision-maker should set out sufficient basis in the decision to enable the subject of the decision and any court on review to know the basis upon which the contents of the report were discounted for the purpose of assessing credibility. Particular care should be taken where an applicant’s mental and physical state examination is “highly consistent” with the account given by him or her.

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