Republic of Ireland
Where the Revenue Commissioners had a real interest in a decision regarding statutory powers to recover monies, the Supreme Court granted leave to hear an appeal notwithstanding that the matter had settled.
This concerned the enforcement of three judgment mortgages attached to the interest of the first-named Defendant on registered land owned by him. The Respondent Collector-General of the Revenue Commissioners sought a "well-charging order" to enforce the sale of the registered properties for monies owed. The first-named Defendant co-owned these properties with his estranged wife, Carmel Deasy, the second-named Defendant. The central issue concerned the court's jurisdiction to give a judgment creditor a remedy for enforcement of a judgment mortgage which affected co-owners. By the time of the appeal to the Supreme Court, the parties had settled. The Appellant nevertheless sought to continue the appeal as it regarded an issue of concern for future cases.
The Supreme Court decided to hear the appeal.
Murray CJ cited Hardiman J's definition of mootness from Goold -v- Collins and reaffirmed that the doctrine of mootness prevents the Courts from deciding on abstract or hypothetical issues. Exceptions to this practice "may only arise where there is a question of exceptional public importance at issue". Murray CJ noted that although the dispute between the parties was no longer live, the Revenue Commissioners still had a "real, not merely hypothetical, interest in the determination of the appeal", namely their statutory powers to recover outstanding taxes.
Points of Note
This continues a line of authority which holds that where an issue arises in the context of bodies exercising statutory powers and functions, the Court may hear it notwithstanding that the matter as between the parties is not live, see Crilly -v- TJ Farrington Ltd and O'Brien -v- The Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
This is the first appearance of "exceptional public importance" as a relevant threshold in case law on mootness.