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Newsletter October 2003
Friday, 24th October 2003

This is the fourth in a series of newsletters which the Board has decided to produce to keep applicants informed from time to time as to the procedures it follows and other developments. Our first three newsletters issued in March, June and August of this year and the Board's 'Guide to Hearing Procedures' issued in April.


 


New Board Members:


 


Dr. John Mason and Dr. Mary Bluett have been appointed as ordinary members of the Board by the Minister for Education and Science, Mr. Noel Dempsey, T.D.


 


The Board now consists of:


 


His Honour Judge Sean O'Leary (Chairman)


Professor Desmond Greer


Dr. Helen Cummiskey


Dr. Ruth Pilkington


Ms. Anne O'Brien B.L.


Dr. John Mason


Dr. Mary Bluett


 


It is anticipated that one further member will be appointed in the immediate future.


 


 


Applications:


 


 


The Board continues to receive applications at a rate of approximately 50 per week and has received a total of 2165 to the 24th of October. Applicants are reminded that the statutory steps and times allowed for each step laid down in the Act and Regulations now occupy a minimum of 14 weeks. This assumes that all necessary documentation has been lodged with the Board. It is only when the Board has received all the necessary documentation that the 14 week timescale commences. In broad terms the first 8 weeks is taken up notifying relevant persons as outlined in the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2002. The following 6 weeks is taken up confirming with the applicant or his/her solicitor that the application is complete (2 weeks) and scheduling the application for hearing or settlement (4 weeks). In some cases the Board, with the cooperation of the applicants and the relevant persons, will be able to reduce this period. In some instances this may be extended if the applicant or his/her solicitor indicate that they wish to lodge additional documentation.


 


Applicants are reminded that the timeframe outlined above is the minimum period required to process an application and only commences when the Board has received all the documents it requires.


 


Applicants should also understand that when all the above-mentioned steps have been completed cases will be available to be listed for hearing or settlement but a delay may arise if the volume of cases reaching that stage exceeds the Boards capacity to process.  Such listing delays have not yet arisen but could arise in the future. The appointment of additional Board members is a response to this possible problem.


 


Awards:


 


To date the Board have completed the process in 330 cases.  Operating for the most part with four members 212 offers have been accepted following settlement talks and 66 awards have been made following hearings. In applications covering 52 applicants refusals have issued for one reason or another. These applications have been refused as, on the face of the documentation, the application was outside the Boards terms of reference as laid down in the 2002 Act. In other words the applications did not relate to residential institutions as defined in the Act. These applications are determined by the Board immediately on receipt so that the applicant is informed at the earliest possible date that his/her application is outside the ambit of the redress scheme.


 


It is anticipated that the newly appointed Board members will add the capacity and flexibility to the system which will enable the Board to increase the pace at which applications are finalised.


 


The awards made by the Board to date range in value from €10,000 to €250,000. The average sum awarded to date is €80,000.


 


Persons against whom abuse is alleged


 


 


Where specific alleged abusers are identified these names should appear at paragraph 6 of the application form: 'Description of Abuse Suffered by the Injured Person'. (paragraph 7 'Details of Abuse' in respect of the application form on behalf of an injured person who has died since May 11th 1999).  Leaving this blank (where the statement of abuse or other documents identify alleged perpetrators) or simply referring the Board to the statement of abuse is not acceptable.  The Board must notify all individuals against whom abuse is alleged.  The assessment of whether persons mentioned in passing in the statement of abuse are alleged abusers is a matter for the applicant not for the Board. In future any applications which lack the appropriate information in section 6 (or 7 as appropriate) of the application form will be returned to the applicant.


 


Sittings


 


The Board now sits five days a week in its premises in Clonskeagh. It has conducted a number of hearings and settlements in both Cork and Limerick and will be sitting in Galway in November. The Board proposes sitting for approximately one week per month in Cork as long as there are sufficient applications from the region.


 


Legal Costs


 


The issue of costs relating to an application to the Board is dealt with in Section 27 (1) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002 which provides that the Board will pay to an applicant, to whom an award has been made, either by the Board or on Review, a reasonable amount for expenses incurred by the applicant in the preparation and presentation of the application to the Board. This  section further provides that the said expenses/costs should be agreed between the Board and the applicant (or the applicant's solicitors or other representative), however, if the costs cannot be agreed between the Board and the applicant, then the costs will be taxed before a Taxing Master of the High Court. Once the costs have been referred to the Taxing Master, submissions will be made to the Taxing Master on behalf of the Board and the applicant and the Taxing Master will ultimately decide what costs will be paid by the Board to the applicant and/or his or her solicitors/representatives. It should be noted that the costs will not be paid until an application has been finally determined  and an award has been made.


 


In addition to the costs relating to an application to the Board it should also be noted that Section 27 (2) of the Act of 2002  provides that the Board shall also pay to an applicant who accepts an award, the costs of any associated Court proceedings which were instituted by that applicant against  a public body or a person who has made a contribution to the fund which the Board is administering under the terms of the Scheme, provided the applicant has signed the necessary Form of Waiver in respect of these proceedings. The Form of Waiver is quite simply, written confirmation by the applicant that he/she will not pursue any right of action which the applicant may have against a public body or a person who has made a contribution to the fund or in a case, where proceedings have already issued (which is the situation in a large number of the applications), the applicant is agreeing not to go ahead with those proceedings.


 


As in the case of an application to the Board, the applicant costs of the Court Proceeding should be agreed between the Board and the applicant (or the applicant's solicitors or other representative), however, if the costs cannot be agreed between the Board and the applicant, then the costs will be taxed before a Taxing Master of the High Court. Once the costs have been referred to the Taxing Master, submissions will be made to the Taxing Master on behalf of the Board and the applicant and the Taxing Master will ultimately decide what costs will be paid by the Board to the applicant and/or his or her solicitors/representatives.


 

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