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Ms Justice Mary Irvine to chair Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee
Justice Mary Irvine and Chief Justice Frank Clarke

28 Nov 2019 / personal injury Print

Ms Justice Mary Irvine to chair Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

Chief Justice Frank Clarke has named the members designate of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council, which will meet early next week.

They are:

  • Ms Justice Mary Irvine, Judge of the Supreme Court (chair), 
  • Mr Justice Seamus Noonan (Court of Appeal), 
  • Mr Justice Donald Binchy (High Court), 
  • Mr Justice Senan Allen (High Court), 
  • Ms Justice Jacqueline Linnane (Circuit Court), 
  • Mr Justice Seán O Donnabháin (Circuit Court),
  • Judge Brian O’Shea (District Court). 

The chair of the committee designate, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, has convened the first meeting for early next week. Justice Irvine has been described as someone who takes a 'realistic' approach to injury compensation rates.

While on the Court of Appeal, she issued judgments that pushed down personal injury award levels given in the High Court.

Statement

Justice Irvine's statement that "modest injuries should attract moderate damages" has been often quoted.

The chief justice said "the purpose of designating the membership of the Committee at this stage is to allow it, prior to its formal establishment, to do such planning and preliminary work as is appropriate.  

"This will enable the Committee, when established, to hit the ground running."   

'Total independence'

The Chief Justice reiterated the total independence that the law ascribes to the committee.  

He said that, in the light of some recent publicity, and having consulted with senior judiciary, it was incumbent on him to emphasise "the total independence which the law gives to that committee subject only to such directions as the Judicial Council itself may give".    

The committee will set its own agenda, he reiterated, dismissing reports that it would pick the five most common injuries for consideration, and make an assessment of the compensation for such injuries in order to reduce them by 15% – 20%.

The chief justice was clear that the committee will set its own agenda, and not be "railroaded" by government or business agendas.

Statutory function  

“It will be for the committee, in the exercise of its independent statutory function, to decide on all of those matters,” the Chief Justice said.

“I should further emphasise that the committee is also independent of me.  My only roles are: first to ensure that the Judicial Council is established as quickly as possible so that the committee, in turn, can begin its formal work at the earliest time,” he said, repeating that “significant progress” had been made.  

"I have felt in incumbent on me to make these additional comments so as to avoid any wrong impressions about the full independence of the Judicial Council and the Committee itself."   

Last week the chief justice said that fraud prosecutions have a different evidence threshold in criminal proceedings. He pointed out that there are important differences between civil proceedings and criminal prosecutions.

The judiciary take seriously the matter of false or exaggerated compensation claims he said, but, in accordance with the law, must operate on the basis of the evidence presented in court.

Evidence is assessed in civil cases on the basis of the balance of probabilities, while in criminal cases it is necessary that proof be beyond reasonable doubt.

Chief Justice Clarke also welcomed an additional allocation of funds for the Judicial Council.

Gazette Desk
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