Garda Compensation claims to be assessed by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board
With the advent of the new Personal Injuries Guidelines comes the news that Garda compensation claims are to be brought within the remit of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board by virtue of the new Garda Síochána (Compensation) Bill 2021 which was published on the 23rd April last. This comes as welcome news for all Gardaí who have been maliciously injured in the line of duty.
Issues with the current scheme
At present, Gardaí have to apply for an authorisation from the Department of Justice in order to seek compensation in the High Court in accordance with the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945. It is widely recognised that the current scheme lacks the facilities to settle claims in an efficient manner and is liable to significant delays and high legal costs due to the fact that all claims must go to the High Court regardless of the nature of the injuries sustained.
Indeed, it is not unusual for a matter under current arrangements to take up to 7 years to resolve and it is estimated that there is a current backlog of between 3-4 years of Garda claims in the High Court compensation list waiting to be heard.
The new Garda Compensation Scheme
Under the current scheme, responsibility for all matters pertaining to Garda compensation claims belong to the Minister for Justice. Under the new scheme, this responsibility will be transferred to the Garda Commissioner and if an authorisation is ultimately issued by the Injuries Board once the claim has gone through the normal Injuries Board process, the State Claims Agency will manage the claim on behalf of the Garda Commissioner if the Garda member bringing the claim decides to proceed to Court.
The new scheme provides that the Injuries Board will assess Garda Compensation claims under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) Act 2003 by reference to the new Personal Injuries Guidelines. Under the PIAB act, the Injuries Board are required to make an assessment in terms of quantum within a period of 9 months from the time the relevant application is submitted.
Evidently, this will lead to a much speedier process in comparison to current timeframes regarding Garda compensation claims as outlined earlier. Garda members wishing to seek compensation can expect their claims to be heard within the same timeframe as private individuals bringing personal injury claims. Furthermore, as the new scheme will not require all Garda compensation claims to proceed through the High Court as is the case at present, although some of them will depending on the severity of the injury, it is clear that future claims will be processed quicker in comparison to the arrangements in place at present.
How the new Scheme will work
The following is a step-by-step guide as to how it is envisaged the new scheme will operate:
i. The Garda member, or relevant dependant in the case of the death of a member, will submit an application to the Garda Commissioner within 6 months from the date of the relevant incident;
ii. The Commissioner will prepare a report on whether the injury sustained was as a result of a malicious incident;
iii. If the report finds that a malicious incident did cause the injuries sustained, the member is entitled to compensation and the relevant application will be made to the Injuries Board by the Garda Commissioner;
iv. If the report does not find that the injuries resulted from a malicious incident, the member can seek to have the matter reviewed by an independent review officer. If the review officer finds in favour of the member, the member is entitled to compensation and the Garda Commissioner will make the relevant application to the Injuries Board;
v. The Injuries Board will process the Garda Compensation claim in the usual manner in accordance with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 and by reference to the new Personal Injuries Guidelines;
vi. The applicant (ie Garda member) and the respondent (ie State Claims Agency on behalf of the Garda Commissioner) will be notified of the assessment and will have the opportunity to either accept or reject the assessment made.
vii. If either party rejects the assessment, an authorisation will be issued by the Injuries Board allowing the applicant to proceed to Court;
viii. The State Claims Agency will then manage the claim on behalf of the Garda Commissioner when corresponding with the applicant’s Solicitors.
When will the new Scheme come into effect?
As matters stand, no commencement date has been announced by the Minister for Justice but the Minister has indicated that work will begin on the new Scheme towards the end of 2021.
For further information regarding the relevant legislation for the new Scheme, please see the following link:
Garda Síochána(Compensation) Bill 2021:
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