New law approved enabling CervicalCheck tribunal

Cabinet ponders ex-gratia scheme for women affected by non-disclosure of key audits

The tribunal will be open to, among others, those who are part of the 221 group of women involved in the CervicalCheck audit. File photograph: Getty

The tribunal will be open to, among others, those who are part of the 221 group of women involved in the CervicalCheck audit. File photograph: Getty

 

The Government has approved new legislation to establish a tribunal which will hear claims arising from the CervicalCheck controversy.

The Cabinet also discussed an ex-gratia scheme for women affected by the non-disclosure of CervicalCheck audits. The Department of Health said the scheme will be open “shortly”.

Sources say it is expected that letters will be sent to women as early as next week.The amount of money to be paid to those affected will be determined by an independent assessment panel.

Separately, the department plans to publish the general scheme of the legislation needed to set up the tribunal after consultation with the Attorney General.

The tribunal was recommended by Mr Justice Charles Meenan in his report on an alternative system for dealing with the women’s cases.

It is intended that the tribunal will provide a less adversarial approach than pursuing a case via the courts. Hearings are expected to be held in private.

The tribunal will be open to women who are part of the 221 group of women involved in the CervicalCheck audit, along with individuals who are identified during the Independent Expert Panel Review being undertaken by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the UK, where this review presents “findings discordant with those of the original cytology examination”.

Speaking in February, Minister for Health Simon Harris said a tribunal of this sort has never been set up before in Ireland.

“An adjudicative tribunal has never been set up in Ireland before for an issue like this. We did have the compensation tribunal for those affected by hepatitis C. That was different, however. There was no issue of potential negligence that had to be demonstrated. The adjudicative tribunal is our response in trying to provide alternatives to the court system.”

“The idea is that this scheme will not be about compensation and will not in any way interfere with any woman’s right to go to court, pursue issues legally or access the tribunal in due course. It is a recognition that disclosure was not made to the women concerned and the impact of that non-disclosure is something the State, regardless of the law, has a moral liability, I believe, to address.”