Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (27)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

24 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in respect of the establishment of the Garda Síochána compensation tribunal which was recommended in 1997; and the reason there has been so little progress in the meantime. [2378/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945 provide for a scheme of compensation for members of the Garda Síochána who are maliciously injured in the course of their duty or in respect of the performance of their duties as members of the force and for the dependants 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.

In 1997 a committee was established to review and make recommendations on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána compensation scheme operating under the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945. The committee comprised representatives from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Finance, the Attorney General's Office, the Chief State Solicitor's office, Garda management and two Garda staff associations, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and the Garda Representative Association. A medical practitioner who had experience of life assurance work was also on the committee which was chaired by an independent chairman. The committee presented its report to the then Minister on 28 August 1997. The committee made 14 recommendations which included the repeal of the existing Acts and the setting up of a new Garda Síochána compensation tribunal on a statutory basis.

The Minister has stated in his answers to Parliamentary Question No. 63 on 15 October 2003, and Parliamentary Question No. 555 on 4 November 2003, that he has taken steps to establish a Garda Síochána Compensation Tribunal, along the lines recommended by the committee set up in 1997. Following acceptance by the four Garda staff associations of the report of the public service benchmarking body and the terms of Sustaining Progress, an agreed report of the Garda conciliation council recording such agreement was signed by all parties on 28 November 2003. The establishment of a Garda compensation tribunal is one of the items included in the related pay agreement and the modernisation agenda in the Garda Síochána. Agreement had not been achievable up to then. It is intended that this matter will be finalised with the Garda associations within the next couple of months.

The tribunal will operate along the same lines as the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, the main difference being that gardaí would be compensated for pain and suffering. It is envisaged that trainee gardaí who suffer malicious injuries prior to attestation would be covered under the new scheme and that claims already refused under the existing Acts as being minor would be allowed go before the tribunal. The Minister is confident that the Garda staff associations will co-operate with the necessary legislative change.