Proposals for a revised Garda compensation scheme were published today by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, TD. The scheme relates to a death or injury which is maliciously inflicted upon a member of the Garda Síochána while on duty or in connection with their duties.
"The proposals represent a major improvement on the current compensation scheme for both Gardaí and the State. The majority of Gardaí who need to access the scheme will receive more prompt payments and the State will have reduced costs in administering the revised scheme", said Minister Shatter.
The details of the revised scheme, which were recently approved by the Government, are set out in the Draft General Scheme of the Garda Síochána Compensation (Malicious Injuries) Bill 2012. The development of a revised Garda compensation scheme is a commitment in the Croke Park Agreement.
The proposal devolves responsibility for implementing the revised scheme from the Minister to the Garda Commissioner and proposed legislative change will enable the State Claims Agency to administer the scheme on behalf of the Garda Commissioner.
Under the current Garda compensation scheme awards are made by the High Court. The reliance on an adversarial approach to determine awards is costly and applicants can wait several years before they receive compensation. All of the parties involved, including the Garda Síochána and the Garda Associations, agree on the need for a revised scheme.
"I am pleased to facilitate the much needed modernisation to the Garda compensation scheme", said Minister Shatter. "I welcome the support from Garda management and the Garda associations for advancing the proposal to date".
The revised scheme is expected to save about €3 million each year in reduced awards, legal fees and administrative costs.
Link to the Draft General Scheme of the Garda Síochána Compensation (Malicious Injuries) Bill 2012:
Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Garda Síochána Compensation (Malicious Injuries) Bill 2012:
01 August 2012
Note for Editors
Draft General Scheme on the Garda Compensation (Malicious Injuries) Bill 2012
The Croke Park Agreement contains a commitment to have claims for death or injuries which are maliciously inflicted upon members of the Garda Síochána dealt with by the State Claims Agency (SCA). In implementing this decision, the opportunity is being taken to update the existing Garda compensation scheme.
2. Current Scheme
The Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 – 1945 provide for compensation in respect of death or injury which is maliciously inflicted upon a member of the Garda Síochána while on duty or in connection with their duties. The scheme applies to physical injuries and to psychological injuries arising from an incident which involve a physical injury or threat of physical injury. The scheme operates on the basis that the injured member (or specified family members in the case of death) may apply to the Minister for Justice and Equality for authorisation for leave to apply to the High Court for compensation in respect of the injury received. Applicants engage legal representatives to assist with their claim and the State carries the legal costs of both parties involved.
Approximately 170 to 200 claims are submitted each year under the scheme. About 200 awards are made annually by the High Court and the time taken to finalise applications ranges from 3 - 7 years. In 2011 the costs of awards was €6 m and the legal costs amounted to €3.255m, excluding the costs of two test cases concerning blood borne viruses which cost an additional €0.545 million. At June 2012 there were 450 applications awaiting determination by the High Court. A further 700 applications on hand within the Department of Justice and Equality are awaiting the final medical report which will permit a decision on authorisation.
A Review Committee examined the current scheme and recommended the repeal of the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 – 1945 and the introduction of a revised scheme. It has been recognised that the current Garda Compensation Scheme contains a number of weaknesses, mainly,
- It is based upon an adversarial approach to the awarding of compensation, resulting in disproportionate legal costs to run the scheme.
- The procedures developed to implement the current scheme result in long delays in determining awards for applicants and involve considerable administrative costs.
- There is a need to clarify the role of the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner in relation to the operation of the scheme.
- The current scheme needs to be updated with particular reference to the need to
(i) have most cases settled by the State Claims Agency without recourse to the Courts;
(ii) amend the scope of the scheme to include all minor injuries and to include Student Gardaí;
(iii) introduce a risk assessment facility which will afford the Garda Síochána the opportunity to avoid risks identified.
A revised scheme which addresses the above weaknesses is proposed in the accompanying Draft General Scheme of the Garda Síochána Compensation ( Malicious Injuries) Bill 2012. The main differences between the current and the revised scheme are:
- Responsibility for the scheme will rest with the Garda Commissioner rather than the Minister, reflecting the Commissioner's revised role as Accounting Officer for the Force
- The scheme will be administered by the State Claims Agency
- The SCA will make prompt settlement offers in appropriate cases, with most cases expected to be settled without going to court, resulting in lower costs
- Applicants dissatisfied with settlement offers will be able to appeal to court, but at risk of bearing costs if award does not exceed offer
- All malicious injuries will be covered by the new scheme, and not just non-minor injuries, and Student Gardaí will be covered
- The new scheme will facilitate risk assessment with a view to reducing avoidable injuries.
3. Main provisions of the draft General Scheme
Head 3 extends the scope of the scheme to trainee Gardaí as recommended by the Review Committee. Head 4 provides for the repeal of the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945 and provides for transitional arrangements in respect of applications still being processed under these Acts. Under Head 4 (3) it is also proposed, with the agreement of the applicant, to permit the transfer to the new system of applications which had been submitted under the 1941 and 1945 Acts but which had not been authorised by the Minister to proceed to the High Court for determination of an award.
Head 5 provides for an amendment to the National Treasury Management Act 2000 by removing the exclusion of Garda compensation claims relating to death or injuries which are maliciously inflicted on members from the remit of the State Claims Agency. It will be necessary for the Minister for Justice and Equality to make regulations under section 9 of the NTMA Act 2000 devolving the administration of the scheme to the State Claims Agency.
Head 6 reinstates provisions involving the 1941 and 1945 Acts which are currently provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 concerning compensation for Garda members while on international service and reciprocal compensation arrangements for members of the Gardaí and the Police Service in Northern Ireland who are seconded to the respective police force.
In line with the present scheme, Head 8 provides that the compensation scheme applies in cases of death or injuries which were maliciously inflicted upon members of the Garda Síochána while they are on duty or related to their service as members of the Garda Síochána.
Head 9 sets out the categories of persons who may be awarded compensation under the Bill. The main difference between this provision and the existing law is that civil partners and qualified cohabitants are explicitly provided for.
Following the passing of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner became the Accounting Officer for the Garda organisation. The budget for Garda compensation for death or injuries which were maliciously inflicted on members of the Gardaí continued to be located within the Garda Síochána vote, but applications for compensation were made to the Minister. Accordingly, it is proposed in Head 10 that applications under the new malicious injuries compensation scheme are made to the Garda Commissioner. (The provision at Head 5 is designed to enable the State Claims Agency to administer the scheme.) It is proposed to maintain the existing three months time limit for making an application, while providing for the possibility of an extension in exceptional circumstances. The provision also applies a "date of knowledge" test, as recommended by the report of the Review Committee.
Head 11 deals with the awarding of compensation and the factors to be considered in deciding on the amount of compensation to be paid to the applicant. The relevant factors are based on the provisions of the current Acts. Provision is also made to pay applicants a fixed amount as a contribution towards their legal costs.
Head 12 provides for an applicant to appeal to the Courts, if he or she is dissatisfied with the level of compensation awarded by the Garda Commissioner. If the Court awards an amount less than or equal to that offered by the Garda Commissioner, the applicant must meet all legal costs. If the amount awarded is higher, the costs are met by the State.
Head 13 replicates the existing power in section 9 of the 1941 Act for the High Court to state a case to the Supreme Court.
Head 14 sets out general provisions governing the award of compensation, whether by the Garda Commissioner or the Courts and is based on section 10 of the 1941 Act.
Head 15 gives the Minister power to make regulations under the Act.