The new Garda Siochana Compensation Bill 2012 has proposed a significant alteration to the existing Garda Compensation Scheme. The new Bill which has not yet been published, seeks to reform the existing Garda Compensation Regime which has existed since 1941.
Approximately 170-200 claims are submitted each year by Gardai and over 200 awards are made annually. The problem with the existing scheme is that it can take up to 7 years or more to have an award made by The High Court and there is no facility for early settlements of cases.
There are a significant number of applications awaiting decision by The High Court. In June 2012 there were 450 applications awaiting a court date and a further 700 within the Department of Justice awaiting a final medical report.
Gardai have consistently criticised the existing scheme as being inadequate to properly compensate members injured on duty.
The flaws of the existing scheme are as follows:
1. There is a requirement to establish whether an injury is minor or non-minor in nature.
2. In some cases Gardai who suffer significant injuries are being refused compensation because the Garda Medical Surgeon is certifying their injuries as ‘minor’ when clearly they are not.
3. Garda trainees are currently excluded under the existing arrangement.
4. It is taking far too long for cases to be certified by The Minister for Justice and at the moment there is only one judge sitting one day a week hearing these cases so the backlog is not being dealt with.
The new bill provides for the following:
1. The scheme will be managed by the State Claims Agency and removes the necessity to consider whether an injury is minor in nature. Thus all injuries, minor or otherwise are included in the bill.
2. Garda Reserve Members are now included as are trainees in the new bill.
3. Applicants for compensation must attend for medical assessments and/or interviews.
4. The bill provides that the Garda Commissioner should pay to an Applicant such compensation he considers reasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
5. A fixed sum for legal costs will be paid along with the compensation as a contribution towards an applicant’s legal costs.
6. There is a right of appeal from the decision of the Garda Commissioner which appeal lies to a judge of The High Court. If the amount awarded by The Garda Commissioner is greater than the amount ultimately awarded by The Court the applicant Garda will pay the legal costs of the Garda Commissioner and his/her own costs.
Liam Moloney Solicitor in Naas who represents Gardai injured on duty welcomed the publication of the heads of the new Bill. He criticised the existing Garda Siochana (Compensation) acts as not being ‘fit for purpose’ and the delays being encountered by thousands of Gardai in getting paid proper compensation for their injuries sustained maliciously while on duty.