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Supreme courts roundup, 31 January to 5 February 2020

05 February 2020

Decisions, proceedings and news from the highest courts in some common law jurisdictions in the last week are as follows:

Supreme Court of New Zealand

Dotcom v Her Majesty’s A-G on behalf of the Government Communications Security Bureau [2020] NZSC 1 (3 February 2020). Unsuccessful application for leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal.

The applicant sought damages against the respondent (GCSB) in relation to unlawful interception of the applicant’s private communications by the GCSB – The HC granted an application that certain communications and information were not to be disclosed or discovered under s 70 of the Evidence Act 2006 on the basis that the communications related to matters of State and the public interest in this information being disclosed was outweighed by the public interest in withholding it – The HC put in place a process designed to both safeguard legitimate national security interests and avoid any prejudice to the applicant – A Special Advocate, Stuart Grieve QC was appointed who had access to the disputed information, but was unable to resist the s70 application – The applicant unsuccessfully argued on appeal that the Special Advocate process had miscarried and the HC had erred in its application of s70 – The Court of Appeal concluded that the balancing exercise under s70 accordingly favoured non-disclosure – Whether it is necessary in the interests of justice to hear the proposed appeal.

High Court of Australia

No decisions released during this period

Supreme Court of Canada

No decisions released during this period

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal

No decisions released during this period

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

Magner v Royal Bank of Scotland International Ltd [2020] UKPC 5 (3 February 2020).Unsuccessful appeal from the Court of Appeal of Gibraltar.

The appellants’ former solicitors stole approximately £6.9m plus interest from the appellants’ client accounts with RBS - The appellants sued RBS for dishonest assistance in the theft and knowing receipt of some of the money - The trial involved allegations of dishonesty against seven named employees of RBS - On 10 August 2017 the Judge upheld the allegations against one of the seven employees, found against RBS on that basis and required it to compensate the appellants - The Court of Appeal allowed RBS’s appeal on the basis that the Judge’s approach to the case and assessment of the evidence was fatally flawed - Whether the Court of Appeal should have ordered a retrial.

Supreme Court of Ireland

Dunnes Stores v McCann & Ors [2020] IESC 1 (22 January 2020). Unsuccessful appeal from the Court of Appeal.

The proceedings relate to the relevant principles to be applied in circumstances where the parties to a contract agreed to independent dispute resolution should the need arise – A dispute arose over a retail and residential development, which did not proceed as planned – To what extent an expert can decide questions of law or whether a court can be asked in advance to determine questions of law which may arise in the course of the resolution of the dispute – Whether it was appropriate for the Court of Appeal to also dismiss proceedings in the context of an appeal against a stay application.

DPP v Eadon [2019] IESC 98 (20 December 2019). Successful appeal against from the Court of Appeal.

The appellant was convicted of murder and unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the trial judge misdirected the jury concerning the issue of his intoxication and its relevance to the jury’s assessment of the issues – Whether the adequacy of the judicial direction instructing the jury on intoxication and specific intention – Whether it is sufficient for the trial judge to charge the jury on the issue of whether accused had the necessary capacity to form the intention, or whether the judge must stress that the applicable test is whether the accused in fact had the necessary intention – Whether it is permissible to have regard to counsels’ closing speeches for the purposes of remedying any deficiencies in the judge’s charge.

DPP v CC [2019] IESC 94 (19 December 2019). Successful appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal. Conviction quashed.

The defendant was found guilty of rape and indecent assault in May 2016 – The allegations related to events that occurred between August 1971 and April 1972 – Whether the question of whether it is possible to provide a fair trial in cases where there is a lengthy lapse of time should be left to the trial judge rather than be decided in proceedings which sought to prohibit the conduct of the Criminal trial before it commenced – The appellant unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing that the trial judge’s refusal to hold that the trial had been rendered unfair on the grounds of delay.

Singapore Court of Appeal

UYQ v UYP [2020 SGCA 3  (29 January 2020).Successful appeal from a decision of the High Court.

The appeal relates to the division of matrimonial assets – The HC judge arrived at a 67.5:32.5 division in favour of the appellant with regard to s 112 (1) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed) – She then adjusted the ratio downwards in favour of the respondent arriving at 60:40 division in favour of the appellant – The Judge made this significant downward adjustment based on the length of the marriage coupled with the view that in dual-income marriages, there should be an inclination toward equal division – The SGCA found that the initial 67.5:32.5 division in favour of the appellant was correct and was a just and equitable division of the parties matrimonial assets.

Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

No decisions released during this period

Supreme Court of the United States

No decisions released during this period

Last updated on the 5th February 2020