A garda sergeant who suffered a serious knee injury during a violent struggle with a prisoner has been awarded damages of almost €290,000.
However, Sgt Donal Cronin, aged 50, from Crecora, Co Limerick, was denied compensation for the promotion he claims he missed out on because of his inability to carry out full policing duties as a result of his injuries.
The High Court awarded Sgt Cronin a total of €286,630 under the Garda Compensation Act for the injuries he suffered during the incident at Limerick Circuit Court on July 9, 2004.
The court heard that Sgt Cronin had passed exams for promotion to the rank of inspector with distinction in 2001. However, he was unsuccessful in interview board competitions for promotion in 2010 and in 2014.
Evidence was heard that Sgt Cronin was subsequently appointed court presenter — a position ordinarily performed by an inspector — as it accommodated his ongoing disabilities.
Lawyers for Sgt Cronin claimed the sole reason for his failure to be promoted was due to the disability arising out of the injuries suffered in the attack. The court heard medical evidence that he would probably need an operation for a knee replacement within the two years.
Sgt Cronin had been a keen GAA footballer and coach but had never been able to return to playing sport after the incident.
A retired chief superintendent who gave evidence on behalf of Sgt Cronin said the score he had achieved from the interview board for promotion was excellent but the system was “unfit for purpose” as it did not make allowances for a candidate with a disability.
A sergeant who gave evidence on behalf of the minister for finance and public expenditure said there was no basis for the proposition that injuries sustained on duty were an impediment to the promotion to the rank of inspector.
He claimed it was not uncommon for a candidate coming from an administrative post without significant operational frontline experience to be appointed to the rank of inspector.
The witness said the promotion process was heavily regulated and the interview board did not have access to a candidate’s medical records and were not aware of any sickness or injuries suffered by a candidate in the course of their duty.
He pointed out that only four of 17 sergeants in the Limerick division were successful in their application for promotion to inspector, two of which were for administrative roles.
The court heard both sides agreed that Sgt Cronin’s compensation including future loss of earnings as a sergeant should be €166,630.
Mr Justice Bernard Barton awarded him another €120,000 in general damages on the basis it was clear he had suffered a serious injury to his left knee that resulted in physical disability and ongoing pain and discomfort.
The judge acknowledged that promotion to the rank of inspector would have impacted on Sgt Cronin’s past income and future earnings.
However, he said he was not satisfied that Sgt Cronin was correct in his belief that he had failed to be promoted because of the injuries sustained in the attack.
The judge said he was satisfied that if Sgt Cronin reapplied for promotion, his injuries would not be an impediment “to a successful outcome”.