Tuesday 21 May 2019

Gardai get record €10m in payouts as assaults soar

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE Government spent a record €10m last year compensating gardai who were victims of assaults.

The payouts come as compensation claims by members of the force maliciously injured after violent assaults soared by 85pc in less than a year.

New figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal the number of compensation actions lodged by gardai under the Garda Compensation Acts, which had gradually been decreasing in recent years, have reached an all-time high.

There were 317 cases lodged last year where a member suffered death or personal injuries maliciously inflicted in the performances of their duties; while off duty; while on leave; or by virtue of the mere fact that they are a member of the force.

Compensation is also available to former members who are killed or injured maliciously because of anything done by them as members or former members of the force, but anyone seeking to lodge a case under the Acts must obtain approval from the justice minister before their compensation claim can proceed.

The Garda Representative Association, which represents rank-and-file members of the force, said the figures were "unsurprising" and reflected the increasing levels of violence against gardai.

"If anything, I expected the figures to be higher," PJ Stone, general secretary of the GRA, told the Irish Independent.

"Our members are being battered, rammed and assaulted night after night because of gratuitous violence.

"We need an analysis of the scale of violence against gardai, many of whom are retired or forced out of work for long periods because of serious injury.

Disgraceful

"Many of the cases going through the courts are historic, some going back 10 or 12 years and the garda compensation scheme -- which requires ministerial approval before a claim can be lodged -- is nothing short of disgraceful."

Last year the State paid €9.8m to serving and former members of the force who were attacked by criminal gangs and members of the public compared to just €3.6m four years ago.

Earlier this year, a High Court judge awarded almost €1m compensation to a garda who was shot in the knee by armed raiders during a bank robbery.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine praised the bravery of Garda Peter O'Connor who, with two other gardai, received Gold Scott Medals as a result of the incident.

The shooting happened on March 5, 1995, when a man was attempting to make a night lodgment at the AIB in Capel Street, Dublin.

Raiders

Three raiders with balaclavas and armed with shotguns and a handgun attacked him. On arriving, Gda O'Connor tackled one of the men but, as he did so, another raider came over and shot him in the knee with a shotgun. The shotgun was then put to his head and he was threatened with being shot. The raiders then drove off.

In another case, former garda Liam Farrell was awarded €468,000 compensation at the High Court after it found that three incidents he was involved in had, as a matter of probability, resulted in his having to retire early three years ago.

In one incident, an apparent bogus call lured the garda into a trap. A large half-tonne wooden spool of cable, which rolled in front of Gda Liam Farrell's patrol car leading to a significant collision, had been maliciously pushed.

Mr Farrell (47) was stationed in Cork at the time.

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