Wednesday 17 January 2018

Soldier loses bid to overturn discharge

Tim Healy

A FORMER soldier with "an exemplary record" has lost a bid to overturn her discharge for failing fitness tests.

Sandra Dunne (28), who was attached to the Second Eastern Brigade before her discharge in August 2009, had brought judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Defence aimed at securing her reinstatement.

In July 2000, Ms Dunne, from Tullow Road in Carlow, enlisted in the Defence Forces for a five-year term. When that period expired in July 2005, she applied for an extension of service but was not recommended because she had failed a fitness test in May 2005.

She became pregnant, was exempted during pregnancy from undergoing a fitness test and gave birth in 2006. She suffered post-natal depression and, while she returned to work in November 2006, was unable to cope. An Army psychiatrist prescribed leave with medication.

In January 2007, she was served with a Health Related Fitness Assessment, having failed the earlier fitness test.

Her Body Mass Index was beyond the limit permitted for soldiers to take fitness tests and she was not permitted to undergo a test then. She failed two fitness tests in March 2009 and was discharged in August.


In her High Court action, Ms Dunne claimed breach of natural justice and fair procedures.

She alleged breaches of the Defence Forces' Training Instructions on several grounds, including alleged failure to give her a tailored fitness programme and adequate assistance.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said the substantive issue related to the circumstances in which a Defence Forces member may be discharged and the extent to which statutory provisions on discharge may be circumscribed by the training instructions.

She found the discretion of a commanding officer in relation to extending service could not be curtailed by training instructions, which were guidelines.

She noted that Ms Dunne had an "exemplary record" but found that, in this case, there was no breach of natural justice or fair procedures.

Irish Independent

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