Dáil Éireann - Volume 546 - 13 December, 2001

Written Answers. - Garda Compensation Claims.

52. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases for Garda compensation awaiting determination in the Courts; the number of gardaí who have made such claims; the year in which outstanding claims were first made; his views on whether the delay in processing such claims is acceptable; and the reforms he proposes to introduce to ensure such claims are processed and adjudicated upon within a reasonable period of time. [31465/01]

228. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases for Garda compensation awaiting determination in the courts; the number of gardaí who have made such claims; the year in which outstanding claims were first made; his views on whether the delay in processing such claims is acceptable; and [1245] the reforms he proposes to introduce to ensure such claims are processed and adjudicated upon within a reasonable period of time. [32227/01]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 228 together.

The Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts, 1941 and 1945 provide for a scheme of compensation for members of An Garda Síochána who are maliciously injured in the course of their duty or in relation to the performance of their duties as members of An Garda Síochána and to the dependents of members who have died from injuries maliciously inflicted on them. Under Section 6 of the 1941 Act a member of the Garda Síochána who has been maliciously injured may sue the State only by an authorisation issued by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Before deciding if an applicant should be authorised to apply to the High Court for compensation in respect of the injury, the practice has been for the Minister to consider all medical reports submitted by the applicant together with a report on the incident by the Garda Commissioner and a report on the injury by the chief medical officer of the Garda Síochána. Members are referred to the Garda chief medical officer as soon as a final medical report has been submitted by their solicitors.

There are approximately 1,200 applications for compensation being processed under the Acts at present. Approximately 600 of these claims are at an early stage of processing in that various reports have yet to be furnished. The status of the remaining claims are: approximately 180 cases where the member has been examined by the Garda chief medical officer and the Commissioner is preparing a report for submission to the Department; approximately 304 cases for which final medical reports have been received and for which applicants are awaiting examination by the Garda chief medical officer; approximately 120 cases for which the Commissioner's reports, including the Garda chief medical officer's report have been provided and for which a ministerial decision as to the granting of an authorisation is required; 14 cases for which authorisations have recently issued to the applicants' solicitors. I have been advised by the Chief State Solicitor's Office that there are approximately 145 cases with them awaiting a High Court hearing.

Since 1955 when the current filing system was introduced more than 6,000 Garda compensation files have been opened in relation to the Acts. Unfortunately, records do not exist on claims made prior to 1955. The information sought as regards the year in which outstanding claims were made is not readily available and cannot be ascertained within the timeframe for answering this question.

A backlog of claims occurred a number of years ago due initially to two judicial review cases [1246] which changed the manner in which claims are processed and then because of the death of a Garda surgeon and the delay in replacing him with the Garda chief medical officer. The Garda chief medical officer is currently addressing the elimination of the backlog. To assist this process, sanction has been sought from the Department of Finance for additional medical assistance for the Garda chief medical officer.

The operation of the compensation scheme under the Acts was last reviewed in 1997. That review resulted in a recommendation on the establishment of a compensation tribunal to deal with the less serious injuries. The Garda associations, although represented on the committee, have sought to have certain of the committee's recommendations amended. My officials will be meeting with representatives of the associations in the new year after which I propose to bring proposals to Government for consideration.

Unfortunately unavoidable delays can occur where necessary additional enquiries are required, because of the seriousness of the injuries received and the circumstances of the incident. I agree that delays in processing applications for compensation should be avoided where possible and I have requested my officials to review the processes used with a view to streamlining and elimination of delays where possible.