The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has argued before the Supreme Court that investigating authorities should, so far as practicable, put a suspect on notice of any allegation which may result in a charge.
The commission was before the court yesterday (19 October) in its amicus curiae (friend of the court) function, in the case of the Director of Public Prosecutions v JD.
Under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, the organisation can apply to appear before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.
Fair procedures ‘not observed’
The case before the Supreme Court centres on a man charged with several offences, where only one – a count of endangerment – was an indictable offence, requiring a judge and jury trial.
In November 2017, in Longford Circuit Court, the trial judge considered that fair procedures had not been observed by the gardaí in failing to interview the man in relation to the indictable offence.
The judge directed the jury to find him not guilty in respect of that charge. This case has been appealed through the Court of Appeal, and is now before the Supreme Court for ruling.
Right to fair trial
The human-rights body set out its view that a failure by the investigating authorities to give the accused a chance to provide his view of what happened could hinder an effective investigation, and the overall fairness of a trial.
This requirement is, according to the commission, an aspect of the fair-trial right enshrined in article 38.1 of the Constitution.
“This case focuses on when and how a person should have the opportunity to give their account during a criminal investigation, and before they are charged with an offence,” said Sinéad Gibney (IHREC chief commissioner, pictured).
“The commission has set out to the Supreme Court that investigators should offer, and facilitate, an early opportunity for someone accused of a crime to set out issues that could later, if the person is charged, support their defence,” she added.