State to slash legal costs for garda compensation claims
LEGAL costs for compensation claims made by gardai injured while on duty are expected to be substantially reduced in the future.
A transfer of claims under the Garda Compensation Act to the State Claims Agency is expected to result in significant cost savings to the State, according to a submission made by the garda authorities to the Dail Public Accounts Committee.
Up to now, the claims have been pursued through the courts by lawyers and the switch to the claims agency is also likely to result in cases being determined more speedily.
Last year, a total of €2.3m was spent on legal costs.
The highest amount paid out in costs was €271,561, while the average was €19,167. The average compensation award was €59,685.
The gardai pointed out that the high costs arose from a small number of test cases that had been selected by the judge presiding over the hearing of compensation cases in 2011.
The judge was concerned at the increase in the number of claims arising from a fear of contracting a blood-borne virus, which did not appear to be warranted from the medical evidence in those cases.
The garda submission noted that the test cases required the employment of senior counsel, who had to provide lengthy written submissions on points of law as well as representing the applicants at a trial which lasted a week and involved extensive use of medical expert witnesses.
There were 120 compensation awards last year, amounting to a total payout of €7.2m.
This compared to 173 cases in 2011 when €6m was paid by the State, and 175 in 2010 when the payout amounted to €5.3m.
The submission also noted that the Department of Social Protection had paid €121,823 last year to gardai, who had been injured or incapacitated by an accident at work or while travelling directly to or from work.
Civil action claims taken by gardai last year amounted to compensation of €334,396.
Meanwhile, the number of garda compensation cases increased by a third last year, according to the annual report of the Courts Service.
The High Court received 125 cases in 2012, compared with 94 in 2011.