Thursday 19 September 2019

Rapist entitled to €10,000 in prison pensions challenge

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

A rapist who successfully challenged whether a law stopping payment of the State's old age pension to prisoners was constitutional is entitled to €10,000 in damages.

The five-judge Supreme Court unanimously concluded last July the State may not operate a disqualification regime that applies only to convicted persons.

That is because it constitutes an additional punishment not imposed by a court dealing with an offender.

The case was brought by a 76-year-old prisoner jailed after he was convicted on 14 counts of rape and 60 counts of sexual assault against a family member.

The man's weekly prison allowance is €11.90, less than the normal weekly allowance of €18.90 due to his inability to engage in work in prison.

Following its decision, the court adjourned the matter to consider further legal argument as to the precise form of order which should be made and to determine if the man, who was jailed for 12 years for his crime and cannot be named, was entitled to substantial damages.

The matter returned yesterday when the court formally declared the relevant section of the 2005 Social Welfare Consolidation Act invalid and in breach of the Constitution.

Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell said he hoped the Oireachtas would address the question in a comprehensive and humane way and would produce an outcome consistent with the Constitution.

While the man's capacity to recover damages was significantly limited, he was entitled to recover arrears for unpaid pension and should receive €10,000 in compensation.

The court noted some €7,500 of that sum had already been paid on account.

Chief Justice Mr Justice Liam McKechnie and Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley concurred with Judge O'Donnell's findings. Mr Justice John MacMenamin expressed a different view after holding that the man had no entitlement to damages on the basis that the section was invalid only from today's date.

Irish Independent

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