Minister rules out law change for Hep C victims

The health minister today ruled out the possibility of new legislation to increase compensation paid to hepatitis C victims infected by contaminated blood.

The health minister today ruled out the possibility of new legislation to increase compensation paid to hepatitis C victims infected by contaminated blood.

Micheal Martin was speaking after a unanimous ruling in the Supreme Court that an unnamed man could not contest the amount of compensation awarded to him by the State was branded “fundamentally unjust”.

If the decision had gone the other way, it could have had significant implications for hundreds of other victims.

This afternoon, Mr Martin denied the case was won on a technicality as claimed by campaigners.

He said it was “widely accepted” that existing legislation was sufficient to compensate victims.

“We have no further plans for further legislation,” he told reporters in Dublin.

The case centred on the unnamed man, who successfully appealed against an award from the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal.

His appeal was allowed at the High Court even though it began after the one-month time bar.

However the Supreme Court today overruled the decision, leaving the man with his original award. As a result, the State will not face hundreds of additional appeals.

Presiding judge Mrs Justice Denham said she was satisfied that the time limit was legally binding under the Hepatitis Compensation Tribunal Act 1997.

Michael Davenport, chairman of the Irish Haemophilia Society, said the ruling was “fundamentally unjust“, and that the Hepatitis C Tribunal had not awarded adequate compensation to its members.

After the judgment was announced he called on the health minister to reverse the decision.

“We’re calling on Micheal Martin to change the rules so that these people can get fair and just awards,” he said.

“It is a technicality, it is as simple as that. These people have been excluded on a technicality, and we want Micheal Martin to change that very shortly.”

Margaret Dunne, administrator at the society, said its members found themselves in an unjust position.

“We will be calling on the minister to introduce legislation to sort out this anomalous situation that they have found themselves in,” she told RTE radio.

The victim at the centre of this case was barred from his appeal because he had accepted the original offer and was outside the time limit.

He became infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C as a result of contaminated blood products. He was originally awarded £250,000 but this was cut by 50% because he had received other cash for his HIV infection.

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