Minister to amend crime compensation scheme after two victims win legal challenge

Planned changes to scheme will need Government approval, High Court told

The Minister for Justice has moved to amend a State scheme for compensating victims of violent crime after two men won test cases over being excluded from it on time grounds, the High Court has heard.

The separate challenges were taken by Philip Bowes, who was attacked and stabbed on December 27th, 2018 in the Dublin flats complex where he lives, and by Jason Dunphy, who was assaulted in Temple Bar, Dublin on April 26th, 2019. Both men suffered serious injuries in the attacks, carried out by individuals previously unknown to them.

They took proceedings against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, the Minister and the State after the tribunal refused to consider their applications under the “scheme of compensation for personal injuries criminally inflicted” because they were brought outside approved time limits.

The applicants contended that the tribunal had unilaterally changed the terms of the scheme in April 2021 to introduce an absolute time limit of two years from the time of the injury for the making of an application. Prior to that, the scheme was operated in a way that allowed victims to apply within three months of the date of their injury, a period that could be extended in exceptional circumstances.


The applicants argued that their exclusion breached their rights to natural justice and fair procedures.

In a judgment last month, Mr Justice David Holland found that the legal principles of effectiveness were breached due to the failure to include a transitional provision in the 2021 scheme that would allow potential applicants such as the two men to seek an extension of time on the basis of exceptional circumstances. That finding has implications for several similar cases brought over the time limits.

When the matter returned to court on Monday, the judge was told by Jim O’Callaghan SC, for the tribunal and State respondents, that the Minister would amend the scheme in light of the judgment. The amendments will need to be approved by Government but that is not expected to pose a difficulty, he said.

After counsel indicated the amendments could take some time, the judge told Michael Conlon SC, with barrister Paul O’Shea and Ian Whelan, instructed by Brian Burns of KBC Solicitors, for the applicants, that the matter could be relisted if the promised changes were taking too long.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times