Sunday 27 May 2018

Special needs assistant won't have to immediately return €100k bullying award which court later overturned

Una Ruffley leaving court yesterday
Una Ruffley leaving court yesterday

A SCHOOL special needs assistant will not have to immediately give back a €100,000 payment she received as part of a €255,000 High Court award for bullying, the Court of Appeal has said.

The award was made in 2014 to Una Ruffley, who worked in St Anne's National School in the Curragh, Co Kildare. 

Last December the appeal court overturned the award saying she was not bullied.

She had been paid €100,000 of it as a condition of the school's appeal being permitted.

When it won the appeal, the school sought the return of the €100,000.

A three-judge Court of Appeal today ruled that while she had an obligation to repay the money, it was not making any order.

President of the appeal court, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, said it was now left to the school to go back to the High Court for the appropriate relief in relation to that money.

He also said that he hoped in future decisions in such cases, there would be specific terms in High Court orders in relation to repayment of monies should an appeal suceed.

The judge said in the circumstances of this case, and on the basis of the very limited discussion there had been on the matter, the court was reluctant to make an order that there would be an enforceable judgment for repayment.

Therefore no order would be made but the judge gave liberty to the school to apply to the High Court for such an order as it requires.

Mr Justice Ryan also commented that while the appeal court, by a 2-1, had found Ms Ruffley was not bullied, the majority court was "far from endorsing the way she was treated".

He was also making no order in relation to costs of both the High Court and Appeal Court hearings which means both sides will have to pay their own costs.

Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan, the dissenting appeal judge who found she had been bullied, agreed with both the repayment and costs decisions, as did Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

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