Monday 24 October 2016

Judge quashes Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's decision to stop injured garda from making bid for compensation in High Court

Ray Managh

Published 14/05/2015 | 14:23

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, has been told by a High Court judge that a broken nose, suffered by a garda while transporting a prisoner, is not a minor injury.

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Mr Justice John Hedigan quashed a decision of the Minister in which she refused authorisation allowing Garda David Costigan make an application to the High Court for compensation.

Gabriel Gavigan, senior counsel for Garda Costigan, had challenged the Minister’s decision by way of judicial review.

He said that under the Garda Siochana (Compensation) Act, where the Minister considered injuries were of a minor nature or suffered during “non special risk” operations, she must refuse authorisation to apply to the High Court for compensation.

Mr Gavigan, who appeared with barrister Brid O’Flaherty, told the court that Garda Costigan, on January 2, 2008, had been called to Loughlinstown Hospital to deal with a man who had been acting aggressively towards staff.

The man had been handcuffed and while being driven to Shankill Garda Station had head-butted Garda Costigan, breaking his nose. A week later he received treatment under anaesthetic to manipulate fracture of his nasal bones and fitted with a nasal splint.

Mr Gavigan said Garda Costigan had suffered immense discomfort and further examination revealed a deviated nasal septum for which he had to undergo a further corrective procedure under anaesthetic. Scar tissue continued to contribute to blockage of his nasal airways.

The court had heard that in August 2014, in a letter to Garda Costigan’s solicitors, Hughes Murphy and Company, the Minister stated that authorisation to seek High Court compensation had been refused on grounds that the injury was “of a minor character” and not sustained in special risk duties.

Judge Hedigan said he was conscious of the limited role of the courts in judicial review proceedings and the only basis for making an order of certiorari quashing the Minister’s decision was that it was not factually sustainable.

He said the issue in the case was whether or not the injuries were of a minor character.  He found that Garda Costigan’s injuries were almost identical to those sustained by gardai in two comparator cases where the High Court had earlier made compensation awards of €25,000 and €18,500.

Judge Hedigan granted an order for legal costs against the Minister.

It was learned afterwards that Garda Costigan would be making a new application to the Minister seeking authorisation to apply to the High Court for compensation.

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