The Garda Síochána (Compensation) Bill 2021(the ‘Bill’) is currently under review at the Committee Stage.
The Bill will establish a new system to replace the previous system established under the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 to 2003.
Under the previous system, members of An Garda Síochána experienced lengthy delays in the assessments of their claims. Under the 2021 Bill, members of An Garda Síochána will have an application process more closely aligned to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) process.
The Bill states that applicants who have initiated cases under the previous claims system, but have yet to be given ‘authorisation’ to go before the High Court, can continue their claim under the new system once enacted. (Section 5 of the 2021 Bill).
Benefits of the Bill
This Bill aims to reduce the length of time it takes for Gardaí, or their dependants in the case of the death of a Gardaí, to have their application for compensation completed. The new process will ensure that avenues for settlement and resolution are available at the earliest possible stage to reduce the number of applications that proceed to court.
Where an assessment concludes that a Garda has been injured as a result of a malicious incident, the Garda or dependant is entitled to compensation and the Garda Commissioner will arrange for an application to be made on the claimant’s behalf to PIAB. The State Claims Agency will act as the respondent on behalf of the Garda Commissioner.
The PIAB process will take place in the normal way under the 2003 Act, subject to certain minor modifications as set out in the Bill. As is the case with other civil actions that PIAB currently assesses quantum in, it is only where a claimant or the respondent rejects the assessment made by PIAB, that an authorisation will be given to a claimant to proceed to court. Proceedings on foot of an authorisation will be treated in a similar manner to other civil actions for personal injuries before the courts, save for certain distinctions as set out in the Bill.
Who can apply for compensation
Section 7 of the Bill defines who may make an application. Garda Síochána members or former members who were injured or suffered death as a result of a malicious incident in the course of their duties or as a result of their duties. Section 8(2) provides that in the case of death of a member or former member dependents of the member may make a claim for compensation. The dependent must have suffered loss as a result of the death.
A reporting officer appointed by the Garda Commissioner will carry out an initial assessment of the application to determine whether the injuries or death was a result of a malicious incident. Where an application has been refused an applicant has a right to an independent review from a review officer. The reporting officer is obliged to inform the Garda Commissioner of the details of the initial assessment report within 4 months of their appointment. The Garda Commissioner will ensure that an application is made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board on behalf of the claimant for an assessment of quantum within 30 days.
About the Authors: Avril Scally, Partner in charge of Clinical Negligence and Nicholas Moore, Solicitor on the Clinical Negligence Team