Tuesday 27 September 2016

High Court dismisses convicted rapist's pension claim

Tim Healy

Published 29/04/2016 | 16:47

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

THE High Court has dismissed a convicted rapist's challenge to a law preventing prisoners over 65 years from receiving the state pension while they are in prison.

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The 75-year-old is serving a 12 year prison sentence after he was convicted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of multiple charges of raping and sexually assaulting his daughter.

Following conviction in March 2011, he was disqualified from receiving the pension payment of €230 per week and payments he had been receiving suspended.

He claimed this amounted to an extra judicial punishment imposed by the State which it is not entitled to impose.

It was estimated he would lose out on more than €95,000 in pension payments because of the disqualification order.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy dismissed the man's action saying he had no right to receive the pension while in prison.

He also rejected claims there had been a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) arising out of the disqualification order.

The action was against the Minister for Social Protection, Ireland and the Attorney General. They opposed the action. The Irish Human Rights Commission was a notice party.

With full remission the man is due for release in approximately 3 years time. He will receive pension payments on his release.

The man claimed section 249.1 of the 2005 Social Welfare Consolidation Act, which "disqualifies" prisoners of pensionable age from receiving the State Pension (contributory) or old age pension, breaches provisions of the Constitution and the  ECHR.

The State denied the claims.

The man does not have a constitutionally protected right to receive payment of the pension simply because he has made the required number of PRSI contributions during his working life, Mr Justice Binchy said.

The right to receive this payment "is a statutory right only" and is "subject to conditions of eligibility laid down by the Oireachtas" the judge said.

The man claimed that as he is unable to do any prison work on health grounds,  he is destitute in prison. The only money he gets is a prison gratuity of €11.90 per week.

The judge said while the man was subject to hardship he was not satisfied the complaints were of a sufficiently serious nature to establish a violation of his right to personal autonomy.

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