Mother of murder victim allowed amend claim over compensation refusal

The mother of a murder victim has gone to court in a bid to challenge a refusal by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal to grant her compensation.

Magdalena Vonkova, from Prague in the Czech Republic, is the mother of Nicola Vonkova (19) who was murdered by Jakub Fidler at Inverin in Galway in July 2008.

He is serving life imprisonment after pleading guilty in 2010 to murder.

The victim's mother has brought a High Court challenge against the refusal of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal of her application for compensation.

It was refused because Ms Vonkova and Fidler, who had been friends, were residing in the same house at the time of her death.

The compensation scheme provides no money is payable "where the offender and the victim were living together as members of the same household at the time the injuries were inflicted".

It is claimed that Ms Vonkova and Fidler lived in the same house but were not members of a household in the strict sense, and say that the refusal to grant compensation should be quashed.

In a ruling on a preliminary issue in the case today, Mr Justice, Senan Allen said lawyers for the mother are entitled to amend their claim.

The Judge said he was satisfied to allow another ground on which the compensation scheme can be challenged by the mother.

The additional ground is that the scheme is allegedly incompatible with a person’s right to remedy guaranteed by Article 47 of the European Union’ s Charter of Fundamental Rights and in breach of EU law.

This is because the scheme fails to provide for fair and appropriate compensation to the victims of violent international crimes committed in the State, it is claimed.

The mother’s lawyers claim the amendment is just and necessary for the purpose of determining the case.

The Tribunal, the Minister for Justice and the State, which are all respondents in the case, had opposed the amendment on grounds including that the addition of a new grounds was outside the allowed legal time limits.

The action was commenced in April 2017, but the amendment was proposed in June 2018, the respondents argued.

Mr Justice Allen said he was allowing the amendment for reasons including that there was "a lot to be said from a public policy perspective" for allowing the challenge to the scheme on all grounds.

He said while there was a lateness to the amendment on the European Union law ground there was also a long delay on the part of the respondents in the filing of opposition papers

The Judge said he accepted the applicants claim that the additional point had been initially omitted from the proceedings due to an oversight.

In her action, the victim’s mother claims the compensation scheme's exclusion rule is a breach of the mother's rights to a fair hearing and/or family life and/or to an effective remedy under the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is also claimed the Tribunal acted unreasonably by treating the victim and the offender as a family or household unit and in finding Ms Vonkova was in a relationship with Fidler.

It is further claimed there was a failure to take into account the fact that she simply lived in the same house as Fidler and it was "not a household in the strict sense".

It is also argued the interpretation of the exclusion rule was done literally and/or narrowly.

It failed to take account that the purpose of the rule is aimed at domestic violence to ensure an offender did not benefit from any compensation award.

At Fidler's trial, the Central Criminal court was told in 2010 that Ms Vonkova died from strangulation following a row about spying on Fidler's computer.

He told gardaí he had been in her company from 7pm on the evening of July 20 until her death.

The pair first met in the Czech Republic when they were both working at a Tesco store.

Fidler, now aged in his mid-thirties, said they had an argument on the way back from the beach in relation to the deceased spying on his email and instant messaging accounts.

Ms Vonkova returned to the house at Inverin.

He followed sometime later and they had an argument which culminated in Ms Vonkova's death.

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