Gardaí pay €20m in legal costs and compensation

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Gardaí have spent almost €20m to cover the cost of compensation payouts, legal cases and court settlements from members of the public and individual officers in the last two years.

Gardaí have spent almost €20m to cover the cost of compensation payouts, legal cases and court settlements from members of the public and individual officers in the last two years.

Figures released by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan show the major payouts were handed out in 2016 and 2017, leading to opposition party demands for a detailed breakdown of the reasons for each payment.

Details obtained by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and seen by the Irish Examiner show that in 2016, the gardaí paid out €4.762m in compensation payments to 66 members of the public and officers.

During the same year, a further €6.29m was spent on court awards, settlements and legal fees relating to cases where legal action was threatened or taken.

The following year, in 2017, AN Garda Síochána paid out another €5.877m in compensation to 111 people, with an extra €3.885m spent on court awards, settlements and legal costs relating to the cases.

In a letter to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, Ms Murphy said the figures show there is a need for clarity from the gardaí over the exact reasons for the payments.

Calling for a detailed breakdown of each case relating to the figures to be published, Ms Murphy said Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin must come before the PAC as soon as possible to explain the reasons for the costs.

In his initial response to the request for further details, Mr Flanagan said the Garda Compensation Acts of 1941 and 1945 allow for compensation if someone suffers “malicious” injury or death due to a garda’s actions.

Mr Flanagan said this is the same for both the injuries suffered by individual members of the public and for serving garda officers.

However, he said Mr Ó Cualáin has told him “a breakdown of compensation paid in relation to detention or more generally to the public is not readily available”.

Figures released to Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins found that since the year 2000, a total of 2,880 gardaí were paid €111.7m in compensation after being attacked or injured while on duty.

The figures, detailed in the annual payments under the Garda (Compensation) Acts from 2000 to 2017, also said lawyers acting on behalf of both the gardaí and those taking cases were paid a further €41.8m during the same period.

While the two-decade figures show there is a long-standing compensation payments trend, the figures from the last two years are still a near 23% increase on previous periods.

The largest annual compensation payment over the past two decades occurred in 2008, when €13.6m was shared out between 238 officers.

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