Board's refusal of application challenged

 

A MAN who claims he was abused in an industrial school has challenged the Residential Institutions Redress Board’s refusal to accept his application for redress on grounds it was made too late.

In High Court proceedings, the man claims the application should be allowed on grounds of exceptional circumstances in that, he claims, an advertising campaign in the UK to highlight awareness of the redress scheme was flawed.

The man has brought judicial review proceedings arising out of the board’s rejection last December of his application under the scheme set up in 2002. The board ruled no exceptional circumstances existed allowing his application to be considered.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is seeking orders from the court quashing the board’s refusal on grounds including it was irrational and a declaration his particular circumstances constitute exceptional circumstances.

He argues he had insufficient opportunity to submit his application on or before the deadline for applications to the board – December 15th, 2005.

The board has rejected the claims.

The man is now in his 70s and has lived in the UK since the mid 1950s. He had been in St Patrick’s industrial school at Upton in Cork for six years where he claimed he was abused.

Yesterday, Mathias Kelly QC, for the man, said his client was unaware of the redress scheme until November 13th 2005, when he saw an advertisement in the News of the World newspaper. His client did not understand the process, that there was a closing date or how to apply.

While there was an extensive level of awareness in Ireland about the scheme, the same could not be said about the level of advertising about it in the UK which was “paltry”, counsel said.

There were advertisements in three British national Sunday newspapers, as well as local papers and papers for the Irish community in the UK.

The advertising failed to take into account factors including that many of those who had been in the institutions wanted nothing to do with Ireland after they left, counsel said. Many did not mix and were socially withdrawn from other Irish.

In January 2006, his client was eventually advised about the redress scheme at the Irish Centre in Coventry and on January 23rd, 2006, had filled out an application form. That was rejected by the board, initially in May 2006 and again in May 2007, as being out of time.

The man and 17 others later took a High Court challenge to the board’s refusal to accept their applications but that was settled on the basis of an agreement the board would conduct oral hearings, which took place last October. In its decision on December 19th, 2008, the board again rejected the man’s application.

Counsel said his client’s discovery of the scheme some two weeks before the closing date, was insufficient to allow him understand what needed to be done so he could complete his application. At about the time he learned of the scheme, a family member was also tragically killed.

Experts had also said filling out an application form for redress was not something “one could do on a Tuesday and have ready by the Friday,” given what had occurred at the institutions, counsel said. “The decision to refuse was simply too harsh.”.

Kevin Cross SC, for the board, said there was no lack of sympathy towards the man. The board had found in a fair and reasoned judgment no exceptional circumstances existed that would allow it extend the time.

Rejecting the claims about the advertising of the scheme in England, counsel said the board had spent almost as much on advertising there as it had in Ireland. Of 14,500 applications made to the board, just under a third were from the UK and the closing date was referred to in the UK advertisements.

The case before Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe continues.