Criminal’s character can be taken into account in compensation claim, court rules

Paul Doyle’ inability to access information deemed a breach of constitutional rights

Paul Doyle was left having difficulties walking, standing and speaking after he was hit with an axe during a row in 2014 with another man who was later jailed for four-and-half years for the attack. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Paul Doyle was left having difficulties walking, standing and speaking after he was hit with an axe during a row in 2014 with another man who was later jailed for four-and-half years for the attack. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The conduct and character of a career criminal can be taken into account in any application he makes for compensation for injuries he got after being hit with an axe during a row, the Court of Appeal (CoA) ruled.

However, the three-judge CoA ruled in favour of Paul Doyle (44) over his claim that his inability to access information in relation to the State’s crime compensation scheme was a breach of his constitutional rights.

Ms Justice Una Ní­ Raifeartaigh, on behalf of the CoA, also said a recent ruling by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the EU, which meant that Irish residents who are victims of crime have a right to fair and appropriate compensation under a 2004 EU Directive, had ramifications for cases like Mr Doyle’s.

Since 1986, the State compensation scheme has only paid crime victims for medical and loss of earnings, not pain and suffering.

Ms Justice Ní­ Raifeartaigh dismissed Mr Doyle’s claim that the scheme here was inadequate under EU law because our Criminal Injuries Tribunal had not yet dealt with his claim for compensation.

Mr Doyle (44) was left having difficulties walking, standing and speaking after he was hit with an axe during a row in 2014 with another man who was later jailed for four-and-half years for the attack.

Mr Doyle, whose brothers Barry and the late Paddy were involved in gangland crime, has himself a long record of crime having been sentenced on some 34 occasions for offences including threatening behaviour, possession of knife, handling stolen property with his longest sentences of between seven and 10 years for robbery with a syringe.

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When the Tribunal sought more information from him regarding his exclusion from the scheme over “way of life” criteria, his lawyers sought information in relation to other “way of life” decisions and how they were made. When the Tribunal said it did not have the resources to provide such information and that there was no provision in the scheme for payment of legal costs, he brought a High Court challenge.

The main grounds of his complaints related to the absence of any provision for legal aid for applicants to the scheme and the existence of the “way of life” criteria. He also complained about the absence of any method to access previous decisions in the scheme related to “way of life”, and about the exclusion of pain and suffering from the scheme.

The Tribunal, the Minister for Justice and the State opposed the application.

Along with the case of another man, the High Court rejected his challenge.

He appealed and both appeals were ruled on by Ms Justice Una Ní­ Raifeartaigh on Friday.

Ms Justice Ní­ Raifeartaigh noted the High Court decision was before the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union decision last July and this had ramifications for the appeal.

It was argued on behalf of Mr Doyle and the other man that the Grand Chamber decision made it clear a 2004 Directive applied to all victims of violent intentional crime without distinction and that the “way of life criteria” did not meet the obligation to provide effective protection to victims.

The Tribunal and the State opposed the appeal.

Ms Justice Ní­ Raifeartaigh said she was absolutely persuaded that the Directive does not require that all member states are mandated to give an award of compensation which completely disregards his criminal history and lifestyle.

She found there was nothing under EU laws or rules that required legal aid had to be provided to applicants to vindicate their rights.

The claim relating to the exclusion of pain and suffering from the scheme was premature in the absence of any Tribunal decision on the cases as of yet and she dismissed that aspect of the appeal, she said.

She found however the inability to access any information as to how “way of life” criteria has been applied in the past by the Tribunal was in breach of their constitutional right to fair procedures.