‘Fat and unfit’ soldier set to legally challenge discharge

A soldier considered too fat and unfit to serve has been given leave of the High Court to legally challenge a decision of the defence minister not to allow him extend his military service.

‘Fat and unfit’ soldier set to legally challenge discharge

As well as challenging a decision to discharge him from the Permanent Defence Forces next month, Private Denis Dowd will seek a declaration that a Medical Corps Instruction, insofar as it refers to obesity, is repugnant to the Constitution.

Michael Howard, for Pt Dowd, told Ms Justice Mary Faherty in the High Court that his body mass index (BMI) is considered too high to allow him continue in the Army despite the fact he is a keen sportsman and runs marathons and 10k races.

Mr Howard, who appeared with barrister Nathan Jones, said Pt Dowd had undergone a medical assessment which deemed his BMI so high it would prevent him from obtaining a required medical classification to allow him extend his service in the military.

The court heard that despite having undergone a strenuous programme to reduce his BMI, he had been informed by his commanding officer that he would not be recommending an extension of service because of his medical classification.

An appeal against the decision was disallowed.

Mr Howard told Judge Faherty the method of assessing BMI used by the Defence Forces was crude.

He said other more accurate body fat indicators, including a skinfold calliper test, should have been carried out. Mr Howard said if such a test had been applied it would have resulted in Pt Dowd being given a medical classification that would have resulted in his service being extended.

A doctor who had assessed Pt Dowd said he was sufficiently physically fit to be given a medical classification allowing his service to be extended.

Mr Howard said he runs a 10k in under 50 minutes three times a week. He has completed five marathons; plays rugby with his local club; and does circuit training twice a week. He also represented the Defence Forces in handball and soccer.

Pt Dowd is seeking to quash the decision to discharge him and overturn the decision not to recommend him for extension of service.

He wants a declaration that in assessing his health and suitability to remain in the Defence Forces on the basis of his BMI the respondents had acted unlawfully, unfairly and unreasonably and contrary to provisions of the Defence Acts 1954 to 2007.

Judge Faherty granted him leave to seek a judicial review of his situation and placed a temporary stay on his discharge from the Defence Forces.

The matter was put back until November.

More in this section