Wednesday 11 December 2019

Garda who lost fingernail loses legal bid to allow him apply for compensation

Stock picture
Stock picture

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 cannot pursue a compensation claim following a High Court decision.

Garda Noel Callan lost a challenge to a refusal of the Minister for Justice to allow him take a compensation claim to court.

Garda Callan injured his finger while on duty in Swords, Co Dublin on August 26, 2011.

A man being arrested for a public order offence lashed out with a kick which resulted in  Garda Callan's little finger getting caught in the patrol car door. The garda was brought to hospital and the nail on his little finger removed and he had stitches to the nail bed.He  was out of work for a week and on indoor duty for two weeks.

The garda disputed 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.

Mr Justice Max Barrett refused an order quashing the Minister's refusal.

He also refused to grant a declaration the garda was entitled to an authorisation to seek compensation.

Mr Justice Barrett said  Garda Callan suffered an injury that ought never to have been visited upon  him at a time when, in the discharge of his duty to protect the public, he was arresting individuals for public order offences.

"What he suffered in and after his injury ought not to be underestimated , getting one's hand caught in a door, losing the relevant finger nail, getting stitches to the nail bed; these are experiences from which any rational being would shrink," the judge said.

The judge noted the doctor on behalf of the Garda Siochana had noted "no residual functional impairment or cosmetic impairment  and no long term sequelae of significance" in relation to the injury.

Mr Justice Barrett said it seemed to the court those are precisely the kind of observations which might yield the rational, reasonable and lawful conclusion the injury to which such commentary relates was and is minor in character.

However,  Mr Justice Barrett said the court's task in the proceedings was relatively limited and confined to whether the Minister in reaching the decision acted in a manner that was in good faith and in accordance with the law.

The judge  said the good faith of the Minister was not challenged by Garda Callan and the court considered the Minister acted in  a manner that was bona fide, factually sustainable , not unreasonable as well and not otherwise legally flawed.

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