Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Questions (249)

Robert Troy

Question:

249. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the legislative proposals progressed into primary or secondary law annually since 2016 to clampdown on fraudulent insurance claims which are driving up premiums; and the legislative proposals envisaged for 2020, in tabular form. [52573/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the focal point for insurance reform is the Cost of Insurance Working Group which was established by the Government in July 2016 and is chaired by Minister of State, Michael D'Arcy TD.   My Department works with the Department of Finance and other relevant Offices and Departments in consideration of actions to counter insurance fraud.  

The Deputy will be aware that the Judicial Council will also have a role to play in this area.  The Judicial Council itself was established with effect from today (17 December 2019). Committees of the Judicial Council will be established by the Council having regard to the timelines set out in the Judicial Council Act 2019. The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee is to be established no later than 3 months after the first meeting of the Judicial Council itself and that Committee is to meet no later than one month after its establishment.

On 28 November the Chief Justice announced the membership of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee which is to be chaired by Ms Justice Mary Irvine.  While the Committee cannot be formally established until the first meeting of the Judicial Council, a “committee designate”  held its first meeting during the course of the week beginning 1 December to embark upon appropriate planning and preliminary work. 

The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee will be responsible for drawing up personal injuries guidelines for review and adoption by the Council.  Section 18(4) of the Judicial Council Act 2019 provides that the “Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee shall submit the first draft of personal injuries guidelines to the Board not later than 6 months after the date on which the Committee stands established.”

The making of fraudulent and exaggerated claims has been the subject of much commentary recently.  The Government is working on a number of fronts to address the high costs insurers impose on their customers.  In particular the Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018 will make the offence of perjury easier to prosecute.  This will be particularly significant in the context of personal injury claims which contribute to the cost of insurance. I believe this will be strongly welcomed by the business community.

This Perjury Bill is a part of a package of measures dealing with insurance issues, insurance fraud and exaggerated claims. Of course it will also have general application in other areas. It will serve as a clear message to anyone engaged in legal proceedings that they need to be mindful of the need to tell the truth and that any deliberate departure from the truth may have serious consequences in terms of the level of sanctions and penalties that will be at the judge’s discretion to impose. The Perjury Bill will serve to complement other Government legislative measures by providing a deterrent effect against those who may seek to abuse the law through the making of fraudulent claims, statements or declarations including in relation to insurance claims.

The Perjury and Related Offences Bill was initiated in Seanad Éireann at the end of 2018 by Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh and passed all stages there in June 2019. The Government has adopted the Bill on its legislative programme to facilitate its passage through the Dáil and it passed Second Stage in Dáil Éireann on 11 December 2019.

 I would also refer to the steps taken by An Garda Síochána in this area. I have discussed the matter of insurance fraud with the Garda Commissioner on several occasions and An Garda Síochána has been closely involved in the Government’s drive to encourage insurers to reduce the costs imposed on consumers.  An Garda Síochána has regular meetings with Insurance Ireland’s Anti-Fraud Forum to discuss and act upon current and ongoing issues which arise in the area of insurance fraud.

 In October 2018, An Garda Síochána published Guidelines for the Reporting of Allegations of Fraudulent Insurance Claims to An Garda Síochána. These Guidelines to make it clear what insurance companies should do in the event that they suspect fraud in a personal injuries claim. The Guidelines were also circulated to the Chief Justice and the judiciary.

 A new insurance claim fraud category on the Garda PULSE system went live on 1 November 2018.

 Operation Coatee was established by An Garda Síochána in April to tackle insurance related criminality and bogus insurance claims. Its focus is the prevention of insurance-related fraud and associated crimes on a coordinated basis throughout Ireland. In circumstances where insurance fraud has already occurred, Operation Coatee is designed to maximise the prospect of identifying suspected culprits, and, where possible and appropriate, to initiate criminal proceedings.

 Furthermore, having given the matter careful consideration, the Garda Commissioner has decided that there will be a divisional focus on insurance fraud, aligned with the divisional-focused Garda model.  The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) will guide all Garda divisions in the investigation of suspected crimes and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud.

The Table below shows the Primary and Secondary legislation progressed in this area since 2016.   

Year 

 Primary Legislation

Secondary Legislation 

 2016

None 

None 

 2017

None 

None

 2018

Section 13 of the Central Bank(National Claims Information Database) Act 2018 amending sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004

 

None 

 2019

 

Circuit Court Rules (Personal Injuries: Section 8 Notices) 2019 (S.I. No. 215 of 2019)

Rules of the Superior Courts (Personal Injuries: Section 8 Notices) 2019 (S.I. No. 216 of 2019)

District Court (Personal Injuries: Section 8 Notices) Rules (S.I. No. 327 of 2019)

 2020

None to date

None to date