Thursday 21 June 2018

Garda challenges refusal of compensation claim after injuring his little finger

The Garda, who is right handed, was treated for an injury to the little finger of his left hand after restraining a drunk and violent man. Stock photo
The Garda, who is right handed, was treated for an injury to the little finger of his left hand after restraining a drunk and violent man. Stock photo

Tim Healy

A garda left with a disfigured fingernail after a patrol car door slammed on the little finger of his left hand while he was restraining a drunk and violent man has challenged a refusal to allow him pursue a compensation claim.

Garda Noel Callan disputes the refusal of the Minister for Justice to sanction a claim under the Garda Compensation Acts because the Minister considered, based on medical reports, the injury was minor.

The challenge to that refusal was heard at the High Court on Wednesday by Mr Justice Max Barrett who has reserved judgment.

At the outset, the judge told the sides his father had been a garda for 35 years but he did not believe he was ever injured.

Both sides indicated they had no objection to the judge hearing the case.

Richard Kean SC, for Garda Callan, said, under the Garda Compensation Acts, a Garda injured during the course of duty is entitled to seek compensation  from the courts and gardai are awarded sums in appropriate cases.

To filter out trivial cases, the Acts provide a Minister must authorise the bringing of a claim but does not have to do so if they consider the injury so trivial a claim should not be authorised, he said.

The issue in this case was the meaning of a minor injury which was not defined in the relevant legislation. While not profound or serious, this was not a minor injury and the Minister's decision was irrational and unreasonable and failed to take proper account of the medical evidence, he submitted.

He said the injury occurred while Garda Callan was on duty at Swords, Co Dublin, on August 26 2011. The evidence was, after a drunk man was arrested for public order offences, he began kicking out and became violent in the patrol car and a door slammed on Garda Callan's left hand.

The Garda, who is right handed,  was treated for an injury to the little finger of his left hand and was out of work for a week, counsel said. His fingernail bed was lacerated, the fingernail had to be removed and he suffered, over an eight month period, loss of sensation and exquisite tenderness when driving and performing various domestic and other tasks.

While the fingernail had grown back, it was irregular and deformed and his side's medical report said he was left with a permanent visible cosmetic blemish and permanently compromised fingernail. He continues to experience some tenderness, especially in cold weather.

Opposing the application, counsel for the Minister said all the medical evidence was fully considered, including a medical report stating Garda Callan had essentially recovered from the injury. The Minister contended this was a minor injury concerning the appearance of the fingernail.

The Minister's decision was made within his powers and took account of all relevant material, counsel said. The Minister  considered the medical reports and the Garda's submissions and gave reasons for his decision backed up by case law. Garda Callan's side was given an opportunity to respond and that response was considered before the final reasoned decision was given, he added.

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