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Administration of Justice Can Not ‘Grind To a Halt’

category national | crime and justice | press release author Monday April 06, 2020 09:59author by foie - Friends of the Irish Environment Report this post to the editors

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 5th Apr 2020

High Court refuses State’s request for Covid-19 adjournment in Shannon LNG Judicial Review
Administration of Justice Can Not ‘Grind To a Halt’

The High Court has issued a Judgment refusing the State’s application for a delay in hearing an environmental challenge to the inclusion of the €500 million Shannon LNG fracked gas terminal on the fourth EU Projects of Community Importance (PCI) list. Inclusion on this list makes a project eligible for up to 50% funding and requires ‘the most rapid treatment legally possible’.

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 5th Apr 2020

High Court refuses State’s request for Covid-19 adjournment in Shannon LNG Judicial Review
Administration of Justice Can Not ‘Grind To a Halt’

The High Court has issued a Judgment refusing the State’s application for a delay in hearing an environmental challenge to the inclusion of the €500 million Shannon LNG fracked gas terminal on the fourth EU Projects of Community Importance (PCI) list. Inclusion on this list makes a project eligible for up to 50% funding and requires ‘the most rapid treatment legally possible’.

Friends of the Irish Environment brought the challenge to the decision-making procedure at the end of February, 2020. FIE alleges a failure by the State and the European Commission to have any or adequate regard to matters specified in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 and to the assessment of ‘sustainability’ required for including the project on the list. FIE is also seeking a reference to the Court of Justice of European Union as the EU approved the project after the Ireland’s regional group recommended approval.

Justice Garrett Simons, in a Judgment delivered on Friday, rejected Principal Officer Mr. Kevin Brady’s argument on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and the Environment that the June hearing should be set back until October, 2020.

In his affidavit, Mr. Brady said that the team required to deal with the case was dealing at present with the ‘implications and future potential implications of the Covid-19 virus for the security of supply of Ireland’s natural gas and electricity security’. He also said that the staff concerned could not work as efficiently as they would otherwise be able to do as working remotely ‘not all have access to their full paper and digital files that would be necessary to provide full instructions on these proceedings’.

Pointing out that ‘the nature of the relief sought in these proceedings is such that the extent of the affidavit evidence required in response will be much less than in other judicial review proceedings’ as the principal relief sought was a reference to the European Court of Justice, Justice Simons called the case a ‘quintessentially a legal issue’. ‘Without wishing in any way to diminish the expertise of the Department officials, there is little, if any, by way of factual evidence which will be required from them in order for the High Court to determine these legal issues’.

‘The criticism’, he wrote, ‘made by the applicant is that a sustainability assessment was not carried out at the relevant time. It is not immediately obvious that it would be an answer to that complaint to prepare new reports or materials ex post facto.’

Noting that as part of the Strategic Infrastructure Division list the Court is obliged to ‘determine as expeditiously as possible consistent with the administration of justice,’ Justice Simons recognised the ‘unprecedented situation as the State seeks to respond to the coronavirus disease pandemic’, stating ‘This Court would never do anything which would impede the ability of these officials to discharge their vital role in this time of national crisis.’

‘Unless the administration of justice is to grind to a halt entirely, however, this cannot represent a valid excuse for adjourning legal proceedings for a period of in excess of three months. All of us will have to accommodate ourselves to the new working environment demanded by the need to respond to the pandemic’.

Finally, Justice Simons concluded, ‘the court will be flexible as to the precise form which the hearing on 30 June 2020 takes. It seems to me that this is a case which could be dealt with by way of a remote or virtual hearing’, he concluded.

A spokesman for FIE welcomed the decision which they ‘hoped was a harbinger of a Court Service ready to embrace the potential of electronic proceedings’.

FIE is represented by Fred Logue, Solicitor, James Kenny BL and Neil Steen SC
ENDS

Contacts:
Fred Logue, FP Logue Solicitor: 353 (0) 1 531 3510
Tony Lowes, Friends of the Irish Environment: 353 (0)87 2176316

THE HIGH COURT JUDICIAL REVIEW 2020 No. 76 J.R. BETWEEN FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT CLG APPLICANT AND MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS CLIMATE ACTION AND THE ENVIRONMENT IRELAND AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL RESPONDENTS SHANNON LNG LIMITED NOTICE PARTY JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Garrett Simons delivered on 3 April 2020
https://friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/LegalDocs/shannon_lng_adjournment_ruling_3_April_2020.pdf

FIE Briefing Note
https://Friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/Media/PCI_challenge_Briefing_Note_130220.pdf

Client Earth’s 20 January 2020 publication: ‘Non-compliance of the 4th PCI List with EU Law and the Paris Agreement’
https://www.documents.clientearth.org/wp-content/uploads/library/2020-01-20-non-compliance-of-the-4th-pci-list-with-eu-law-and-th...n.pdf

Related Link: https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17782-high-court-refuses-state-s-request-for-adjournment-in-shannon-lng-judicial-review
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