Under Article 34 (1) of the Constitution of Ireland, it is provided:
Justice shall be administered in courts established by law by judges appointed in the manner provided by this Constitution, and, save in such special and limited cases as may be prescribed by law, shall be administered in public.
Hearings not so held are âprivateâ? and are said to be held âin cameraâ?. (âCamera is the Latin for âroomâ?).
The most common proceeding heard in camera is the hearing of a family law matter. That aside, it is denied to almost every other litigant that the proceedings be heard in private.
It is a shock therefore to review a hearing that was not only heard in private, but one of the parties was excluded from part of the proceedings.
The Information Commissioner made a ruling against the Minister that he disclose certain documents to the Notice Party. The Minister appealed pursuant to Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997
On a Motion for Directions the High Court ordered the hearing to be held in camera in order to ensure there would be no disclosure of material to the Notice Party or the public. The court also ordered that the identity of the Notice Party not be disclosed, that the material or records not be disclosed to the Notice Party and that the Notice Party, to that end, not get copies of the affidavits and exhibits exchanged between the Minister and the Commissioner.
The Minister and the Commissioner exchanged full submissions; the Notice Party did not get these.
Essentially, the court judgement consisted of a bare finding in favour of the Minister, on grounds contained in the secret submissions of the Minister.