A young woman who was sexually and physically assaulted when she was a child has brought a High Court challenge over her exclusion from a State scheme that compensates victims of violent crime.
The victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was forced to perform oral sex on two males. She is still recovering from the severe mental and physical impact the attacks have had on her. She suffers from PTSD, and the attacks have had a huge adverse affect on her life. Earlier this year she applied for compensation under the scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted.
However, her application was refused by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, the body which administers the scheme, because it was made outside the allowed time limit. In High Court judicial review proceedings, the young woman claims that decision made last month is unlawful and is in breach of fair procedures and fair and natural justice.
A similar action, also arising out of a refusal by the tribunal to include an application for compensation for the same reason, came before the court in recent weeks.
Represented by Michael Conlon SC, instructed by solicitor Brian Burns, the applicant claims that in April 2021 the tribunal "unilaterally changed" the terms of the scheme.
The scheme, up until last April, had been operated in a manner that allowed victims make an application within a period of three months from the date of their injury, counsel said. Under the previous scheme, the time period could be extended if the tribunal believed that any application outside of the three-month period was exceptional.
There was no upper limit on the tribunal’s discretion to extend time in any individual case, counsel added. However, last April the terms of the scheme were changed with the introduction of an absolute limit of two years from the time of the injury for the making of an application.
The applicant made an application to be included in the scheme in August 2021, counsel said. Prior to that she had not been aware of the existence of the scheme. Counsel said that what the tribunal had done effectively amounts to a retrospective unlawful interference with the applicant's right to be compensated for her injuries. In the action against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, the Minister for Justice, Ireland and the Attorney General, the applicant seeks an order from the High Court quashing the refusal to consider her application to be included in the scheme.
She also seeks a declaration that the tribunal unlawfully fettered its discretion when it made changes to the scheme in April 2021, including implementing an absolute two-year time period. She seeks further declarations, including that the way the tribunal has administered the scheme since April 2021 breaches the legal principals of effectiveness and equivalence, and that the scheme is non-retroactive in relation to his application for inclusion.
Permission to bring the challenge was granted by Mr Justice Charles Meenan. The judge made the matter returnable to a date next month, when it can be heard at the same time as the other action.
At the 2019 trial of one of the males who assaulted her, the Central Criminal Court heard that on two separate dates in 2015 she was forced to perform sex acts on the males. The first assault was recorded on phones by other youths. A few days later the older male forced the girl perform oral sex both on him and another younger male, by threatening to show the images of the early incident to others.
The victim was just 12 years old when the assaults occurred, whereas the two males were in their teens, and were minors. The three were known to each other. The older male, now aged in his early 20s, was given a four-year prison sentence, plus a further two years post-release supervision, following a plea of guilty. Passing sentence on the man, Mr Justice Michael White said he was struck by the "cruelty" of the offences and their circumstances.
At a separate court hearing the younger male, who claimed he was forced by the older male into having the sex act performed on him by the victim, was given 180 hours community service. His lawyers argued that his actions were due to the fact he was in fear of the older male, and of being the subject of adverse commentary on social media. Both males apologised to their victim.