Judgment Title: Simmonds & Anor -v- Ennis Town Council
Neutral Citation: 2012 IEHC 282
High Court Record Number: 2011 10285P
Date of Delivery: 23/03/2012
Court: High Court
Composition of Court:
Judgment by: Clarke J.
Status of Judgment: Approved
Neutral Citation Number:  IEHC 282
THE HIGH COURT
[2011 No. 10285 P]
TOBY SIMMONDS AND BY ORDER THE REAL OLIVE COMPANY LIMITED
ENNIS TOWN COUNCIL
JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Clarke delivered the 23rd March, 2012
1.2 For the reasons set out in the main judgment, I determined the first preliminary issue directed to be tried by finding that the casual trading legislation did apply to trading at a traditional franchise market or fair so that, at the level of principle, a trader wishing to sell goods at a traditional franchise market or fair was required to hold a licence under the provisions of the casual trading legislation.
1.3 However, in relation to the second question with which the preliminary issue hearing was concerned, I did not feel that a definite answer could be given. For the reasons set out in the main judgment I came to the view that there were limitations on the manner in which a local authority, such as Ennis Council, could use its powers under the casual trading legislation to impose, by bye-law, regulation of a franchise market or fair. At para. 6.22 of the main judgment, I held that it was clear that “there needs to be in place valid bye-laws in order that the obligation to have a licence can come into practical effect”. In those circumstances it seems to me that counsel for Mr. Simmonds was correct when he argued that it has already been determined that a trader, such as Mr. Simmonds, is only required to have a licence in order to trade at a franchise market where valid bye-laws providing for the grant of a licence can be said to be in existence. That much is explicitly stated in the main judgment. It is also implicit in that judgment that a local authority could not, by the simple expedient of failing to adopt appropriate bye-laws and thus failing to put in place a mechanism by which a trader could be licensed, abrogate the entitlement of such a trader to sell goods at a traditional franchise market or fair in accordance with the terms of the relevant franchise. It follows that the question, of whether Mr. Simmonds can lawfully trade within the parameters of the existing Ennis franchise market, is dependent on there being valid bye-laws in place such as would allow Mr. Simmonds to seek a licence.
1.4 In the context of those findings, both sides to this litigation brought motions before the court. On behalf of Ennis Council it was suggested that all of the claims made by Mr. Simmonds in the pleadings in this case have, as a result of the main judgment, been determined so that the proceedings should now be dismissed. While resisting that application, Mr. Simmonds, as a fallback position, brings a motion before the court seeking to amend his pleadings. Both motions are, therefore, concerned with where this litigation should go now. Should it, as Ennis Council suggest, now be dismissed or should it, as Mr. Simmonds argues, go forward to a plenary trial with or without amended pleadings?
1.5 The starting point seems to me to be a consideration of the case pleaded by Mr. Simmonds for it is against that case that both motions need to be judged. I, therefore, turn to the pleadings.
2. The Pleadings
2.2 Leaving aside the claim for damages and for interlocutory relief, the final two orders are designed to prevent interference by Ennis Council with Mr. Simmonds’ activities. Those orders could not, of course, be granted in the form in which they are sought for the very reasons just addressed in respect of similar declaratory relief.
2.3 It is then important to turn to the statement of claim which, as counsel for Ennis Council correctly pointed out, was filed after the main judgment had been delivered. The reliefs claimed are exactly the same as those set out in the endorsement of claim. The assertions contained in the statement of claim relate principally to the existence of a franchise market at Ennis and an allegation, which is, at least so far as the factual element of same is concerned, correct to the effect that Ennis Council sought to interfere with Mr. Simmonds trading by asserting that he required a casual trading licence.
2.4 A reply was filed on the 11th January of this year. That reply does not seem to be material save that there is, in para. 8, an assertion that the fee imposed by the 2011 Bye-laws is ultra vires.
2.5 It seems to me that any fair reading of the pleadings as a whole can lead only to the conclusion that there is no direct challenge to the validity of the 2011 Bye-laws other than the oblique challenge contained in the reply to the scale of fees charged for a licence under the terms of those bye-laws. While it is true to say that the reliefs sought by Mr. Simmonds in the pleadings do raise the question of the extent to which his entitlement to trade at the Ennis franchise market can be interfered with, there is nothing in the pleadings as they currently stand which could, in my view, be reasonably interpreted as suggesting that part of the grounds on which it is said that Mr. Simmonds is entitled to trade without interference by Ennis Council is that the 2011 Bye-laws are invalid. For the reasons set out in the main judgment, I am satisfied that, provided there be valid bye-laws, Ennis Council is entitled to interfere with Mr. Simmonds’ activities at a franchise market within the terms of those bye-laws including requiring that Mr. Simmonds hold a licence. It seems to me that it logically follows that Mr. Simmonds’ claims must necessarily fail unless he is in a position to successfully quash the 2011 Bye-laws to the extent either that no bye-laws can be said to be validly in existence or, at a minimum, that there are no valid bye-laws providing for the grant of a licence. For the reasons already addressed, I am satisfied that unless there are bye-laws which permit the grant of a licence then Ennis Council cannot seek to interfere with the exercise of franchise market rights at the Ennis Market.
2.6 It seems to me to follow, in turn, that, because there is no real attack on the validity of the 2011 Bye-laws contained in the pleadings to date, the situation has been reached where, unless it is appropriate to allow an amendment of the pleadings, Ennis Council is entitled to succeed. I am not satisfied that the oblique reference to the level of fees charged in respect of licences contained in the reply and not reflected in any specific relief directed towards quashing all or part of the 2011 Bye-laws, is anything other than an impermissible collateral attack on those bye-laws. It follows, therefore, that these proceedings must be dismissed unless it is appropriate to grant an amendment. I, therefore, turn to that question.
3. Should there be an Amendment?
(i) The Bye-Laws purport to limit the lawful sale of goods at Ennis Market to such goods as are approved by Ennis Town Council and which can be sold in the manner envisaged by the Bye-Laws.
(ii) The Bye-Laws do not designate a casual trading area encompassing the entirety of the existing franchise market area at Ennis, and thus unlawfully purport to restrict the exercise of that public right.
(iii) The Bye-Laws purport to prevent trading within Ennis Market at certain areas and certain hours.
(iv) The Bye-Laws purport to restrict trading to those persons who apply in advance for an annual licence.
(v) The Bye-Laws purport to impose an annual fee for market trading which amounts to an unreasonable and disproportionate charge, is contrary to the provision of Directive 2006/123/EC of the 12th December, 2006 on services in the internal market (“the Services Directive”) and also is related to capital value of the licence so as to amount to a tax.
(vi) The Bye-Laws are subject to the express reservation of the right of the Defendant to grant or refuse a casual trading licence.”
3.3 Against that background, two general questions seem to me to arise. The first is as whether it would be appropriate to allow an amendment at all at this stage. Preliminary issues were, it needs to be recalled, directed by the court and have been answered. Second, various points are made on behalf of Ennis Council which seek, in substance, to suggest that Mr. Simmonds could not succeed on some or all of the points now sought to be raised.
3.4 So far as the first of those questions is concerned, it seems to me that it would, at least at the level of principle, be appropriate to allow an amendment. It must be recalled that the result of the preliminary issue, so far as the key question of whether Mr. Simmonds was entitled to trade or not, was inconclusive. While Ennis succeeded in persuading me that the casual trading legislation applied to franchise markets it did so in a context, and only on the basis, that there were significant limitations on the power of regulation of a franchise market for the reasons set out in the main judgment. It is clear from that judgment that had I not been satisfied that such limitations could be implied into the 1995 Act, then I would have interpreted the legislation as not applying to franchise markets at all. As a result of the main judgment, it follows that both parties were left with a position which was, perhaps, not fully anticipated. In those circumstances it would not seem to me to be unreasonable, at least in general terms, to allow either side to reconsider how they wished to formulate their case in the light of those findings. It does not seem to me that an amendment, as such, would give rise to any prejudice subject to one issue which is, perhaps, better dealt with under the second heading, viz. delay.
3.5 Counsel for Ennis Council raised a number of points concerning the challenge to the bye-laws which do need to be noted. First, the question of Mr. Simmonds’ standing to raise some of the points urged was questioned. While there could be little doubt that Mr. Simmonds has standing, in general terms, to question the validity of bye-laws which may directly affect him, the point made is based on an assertion that there may be limits, based on the facts, as to the extent to which it may be open to Mr. Simmonds to make certain points. For example, one of the issues addressed in the main judgment was the question of whether a local authority could alter the area within which a franchise market was to take place by the exercise of regulatory powers under the casual trading legislation and without invoking the procedures set out in s. 8 of the 1995 Act to move the location of the franchise market in question. In the main judgment I came to the conclusion that it was not open to a local authority to bypass s. 8 in that way. However, the extent to which it may be open to any individual to make an argument as to the validity of a particular set of bye-laws, based on such an argument, may arguably be dependent on whether the scope of the area, in which casual trading is permitted under the 2011 Bye-laws, could be said to interfere with the rights of that individual rather than some notional individual who might wish to trade somewhere else. Like considerations might apply in respect of limitations placed on produce or other restrictions. There are, therefore, significant questions as to the extent to which Mr. Simmonds may have standing to raise some of the points which he now wishes to raise. However, it seems to me that those issues are at least arguably based on facts which the court might wish to explore in some detail. In those circumstances it seems to me that arguments as to standing are best left to a full trial.
3.6 Like considerations seem to me to arise in relation to the delay points made on behalf of Ennis Council. In that context I should say that, for the reasons already analysed, I am satisfied that the only way in which it would be appropriate to permit Mr. Simmonds to continue with these proceedings is if it were appropriate to allow an amendment to the statement of claim which amounted to a direct challenge to the validity of some or all of the 2011 Bye-laws such as would be sufficient, if successful, to give rise to a situation where there would be no licensing capacity to be found in those bye-laws which in turn would, again for the reasons already set out, lead to a situation where Mr. Simmonds was not, at least for the time being, obliged to hold a licence. It is clear from O’Donnell v Dun Laoghaire  ILRM 301 that it is permissible in plenary proceedings to seek relief which ought ordinarily be pursued in a judicial review application but that, where so doing, a plaintiff cannot bypass the procedural obligations and limitations which arise in judicial review cases such as the obligation to move expeditiously and, ordinarily, and in the absence of an extension of time, within three or six months. It follows that a challenge to the relevant bye-laws, even if brought in plenary proceedings, is at least arguably subject to the same time constraints as would have applied had leave to seek judicial review been sought in proceedings designed to quash in whole or material part the 2011 Bye-laws. However, it seems to me that this is the type of case where, had an application for leave been brought, the court would have dealt with the delay question by reserving that issue to the judge who would try the substantive application and who would then have the benefit of a more detailed understanding of the facts and argument from both sides. For those reasons it seems to me that the delay question is, like the standing issue, one which is best left to a full trial.
3.7 Indeed one issue which may arise is as to whether the shortened time period for judicial review arising from the amendments made to O. 84, r. 21(1) by S.I. 691 of 2011 (and which came into operation on the 1st January, 2012) applies.
3.8 Certain other points were made on behalf of Ennis Council concerning the merits of the issues sought to be raised. It does not seem to me to be appropriate, at this stage, and in the context of a motion to amend, that I should say anything more than that the points raised may or may not be good ones, but they are not sufficient to persuade me that there is absolutely no potential merit to any of the issues sought to be raised by Mr. Simmonds such as would justify excluding the issue concerned from the amendment.
3.9 It follows that I am satisfied that Mr. Simmonds should be given leave to amend his pleadings. However, the amendment should be to the statement of claim which should now be focused on a direct challenge to the 2011 Bye-laws on the grounds set out at para. 4 of the proposed amendment to the reply and which I have already cited. It would also be appropriate that Mr. Simmonds now delete from the statement of claim (particularly given that it was filed after the ruling on the preliminary issue) any continuing claim which is inconsistent with that ruling. To the extent that it is appropriate for Mr. Simmonds to continue to assert that he does not need a licence; that can only be done as an alleged consequence of there being no bye-laws validly in existence through which such a licence can be granted.
4. Procedural Directions
4.2 Finally, and subject to what either side may have to say, I am minded to deal with the costs to date of the issues with which I have been concerned in the following way.
4.3 So far as the hearing of the preliminary issue is concerned, it seems to me that it would be appropriate to reserve the costs of that preliminary issue to the trial judge. In saying that, I acknowledge that it is appropriate to characterise Ennis Council as having at least succeeded in material part at the hearing of the preliminary issue. Doubtless the trial judge will take my view, as to that fact, into account in fashioning any appropriate costs order at the end of the day. However, it equally seems to me that it cannot be said that Ennis Council has necessarily fully succeeded for the kernel of the practical issues, which have arisen between the parties, is as to whether Ennis Council are currently entitled to interfere in any way with Mr. Simmonds’ rights in respect of the Ennis franchise market. If the current 2011 Bye-laws withstand challenge (or at least withstand challenge to a sufficient extent that the licensing regime remains intact), then it seems to me that Mr. Simmonds will have failed substantially in these proceedings as a whole. He will certainly have failed in the proceedings as they have been constituted to date and it would be difficult to see any reason why the entire costs, at least to this point in time, should not be awarded against him. To the extent that he might succeed in some aspect of his challenge to the bye-laws but fail to displace the bye-laws to a sufficient extent to remove the licensing regime, then it would be a matter for the trial judge dealing with the final trial to consider how the costs from today’s date onwards should be dealt with in the light of whatever findings might be made.
4.4 However, on the other hand, to the extent that Mr. Simmonds may displace the licensing regime, the trial judge would then need to take into account the fact that the root cause of these proceedings was an attempt by Ennis Council to interfere with Mr. Simmonds’ market trading rights in circumstances which would have been found to be invalid. The trial judge would then have to take an overall view, based on that fact, of how it would be just to deal with the costs. For those reasons it seems to me that the costs of the preliminary issue should be reserved noting my comments as to how the success of the respective parties on that preliminary issue might ultimately be viewed.
4.5 Nevertheless, it seems to me that a different view needs to be taken of the two motions. I have, in substance, found that, in the absence of an amendment, Ennis Council would be entitled to succeed on the proceedings as currently constituted. It follows that at the time when Ennis Council brought its motion it was, prima facie, entitled to the relief claimed. It is only the amendment which has prevented that order being made. It seems to me that Ennis Council must be entitled to the costs of its motion on that basis.
4.6 So far as the motion to amend is concerned, I have come to the view that no order as to costs should be made. It is true that the necessity for the amendment has come about because of the need, for the reasons which I have set out, for Mr. Simmonds to change his case. It follows that the need for an amendment in the first place is due to the fact that Mr. Simmonds did not formulate the claim in the manner which he now finds it necessary so to do. However, against that needs to be set the fact that Ennis Council opposed the amendment in circumstances where I have been satisfied to allow the amendment. To that extent the costs of the amendment issue were more substantial than would have been the case had the application not been opposed. I have also taken into account the fact that I have not allowed the amendment as originally sought but rather required that any amendment be to the statement of claim. Subject to what counsel may have to say, it seems to me that those factors broadly balance each other out and that no order as to costs should be made in respect of the motion to amend.