Woman loses court challenge against Redress Board

A woman who claims she was abused at an industrial school has today lost her High Court challenge against the Redress Institution Board's refusal to allow her bring a claim for compensation.

A woman who claims she was abused at an industrial school has today lost her High Court challenge against the Redress Institution Board's refusal to allow her bring a claim for compensation.

The woman, now aged 41 and who cannot be identified for legal reasons, claimed she was subject to physical and emotional abuse at the industrial school she was sent to in 1977.

The woman, who the court heard has intellectual difficulties, remained at the Midlands-based school until 1987.

In 2009 she sought compensation under the Government scheme set up in 2002 to compensate those abused while resident in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to state regulation or inspection.

However in July 2010 the Residential Institutions Redress Board, refused to allow her extend the time period so she could make an application for redress.

She brought an action to the High Court aimed at overturning that decision on grounds including the board's decision was wrong because it had failed to take into account her intellectual problems, and that her case amounted to exceptional circumstances. The Board denied her claims.

In his judgment today, the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicolas Kearns dismissed the woman's claim and upheld the board's decision. The Judge said he was satisfied there was "no irrationality or want of fair procedures in the manner the board had dealt with the case."

The woman first sought compensation under the scheme in August 2009, almost four years after the time limit had expired. She claimed that she had no idea she was entitled to apply and only learned about the existence of the board following a casual meeting with a woman who had been in the same institution with her in June 2009.

The board in rejecting her claim said her application was made out of time and there were no exceptional circumstances that would warrant the board exercising its discretion to extend time.

In her High Court action she claimed the refusal was irrational, broke the rules of natural and constitutional justice, and amounted to a failure to apply fair procedures.

She claimed the board failed to take into account her intellectual and reading difficulties. The court heard that her IQ was assessed as being borderline, which amounted to a exceptional circumstance.

It was also claimed the board erred by finding that her lack of knowledge of the scheme did not amount to an exceptional circumstance.

The board in opposing the action said it carefully considered the woman's difficulties before making its decision.

It also argued that it conducted an extensive advertising campaign to inform the public of its existence, and that there was no legal basis for the contention that a lack of knowledge about the scheme amounted to an exceptional circumstance.

In his judgment Mr Justice Kearns said he was satisfied that the Board did give "careful, full and detailed consideration" to the concerns about the woman's intellectual abilities before making its decision. "It could not by any stretch of the imagination be said to have failed to take those difficulties into account," he said.

The Judge added that her was further satisfied that there was ample means of acquiring knowledge about the scheme available to the woman.

During the period when the scheme was in existence the Judge said not only was there was "a national furore taking place on an almost daily basis", in the media, plus an extensive advertising campaign about the scheme.

The Judge added the woman's intellectual difficulties were not as severe as contended for.

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