The Residential Institutions Acts established compensation following the work of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The Commission’s investigations established facts concerning the allegations of abuse and the Redress Board decided levels of damages.
The government decided to establish a Redress Board in advance of the completion of the Commission’s report and the Residential Institutions Redress Act was passed on 2002.
The Board used for the official application form which sought information regarding the subject matters for application for redress. Applicants were entitled to apply in person or were entitled to legal assistance. The Board pays solicitor’s reasonable costs and expenses. Third party support groups or family members could assist.
The main date before which the application had to be made was 15th December 2005. Late application could be considered up to 16th September 2011. The Board power to consider such late applications ceased under the Residential Institutions Redress Amendment Act 2011 on 16th December 2011.
Persons who died after 1st May 1999 could be the subject of redress on behalf of the representative.
The Board on receipt of application considered what further information was required. It must be satisfied in relation to medical evidence and other injuries. The
Board is required to ask the persons named as responsible for abuse. Representatives of the institutions in which the abuse took place were required to provide the Board with evidence relevant the application. They are given a full copy of the application and further information lodged by the applicant.
If the Board was satisfied the applicant was entitled to redress, it sought to make an informal settlement. If the informal settlement was not offered the matter proceeded to hearing by the Board.
Hearings were informal and conducted by a panel of two or three members of the Board. Applicants were allowed to call verbal evidence and were allowed to cross-examine witnesses. Persons named in the application or the institutions representing them were entitled to take part.
Hearings were in held in private. Exceptionally the Board might permit a close relative or other person to be present.
The Board’s registrar compiled written evidence to be considered at a hearing of the application. The applicant was entitled to give oral evidence himself or through witnesses.
The Board could decide that it was appropriate to have an oral hearing and might request the applicant or others to give verbal evidence. The Board might may consider it appropriate to hear evidence of the applicant or his medical advisors in respect of a medical report.
The Board’s registrar compiled at dossier of hearing papers. This consisted of application forms,
- other documents submitted
- written statements
- medical reports,
- medical reports made by the Board’s medical advisors.
If the applicant did not have the above papers already they were forwarded prior to the hearing.
The Board could award costs to witnesses but could not do so if they are called unnecessarily. The Board gave give a notice of hearing between four and six weeks beforehand. It is open to consider alternative arrangement.
The Board was normally represented by a solicitor or counsellor at the hearing. The applicant need not necessarily be accompanied by a solicitor or counsellor. The role of solicitor or counsellor was advisory and not adversarial. The Board generally permitted costs for one solicitor and one barrister.
The Board could not compel persons to give evidence. The hearing was not a court of law, and the procedure was kept as informal as possible. Person giving oral evidence did so on oath or affirmation. All persons were bound to tell the truth and there were penalties for deliberate untruthfulness or intentional misleading.
The Board members considered their decisions after the hearing. In some cases, the decision was given immediately or in some cases it was reserved and given later in writing.
An applicant was obliged to prove
- evidence of his identity
- presence at the residential institution
- abuse sustained and
- injury suffered in consequence.
The Board may request at its own behalf or on behalf of an applicant by notice or in writing any person to produce to the Board documents under its possession custody or control.
The Board appoints persons with appropriate medical and related expertise to advise generally in relation to the injuries. Without prejudice to the right to put forward evidence the experts prepared a report in relation to the injuries of the applicant for the purpose of the award. The Board may appoint it own counsel or call expert witnesses to give evidence as the Board requires.
The Board sat in divisions to exercise of its functions.
The Board made an interim and final award of redress. When it made a preliminary decision and was satisfied entitlement to an award arose, it might having regard to age and infirmity, if it considered appropriate to make an interim award of up to €10,000. This was deducted from the final award.
The final award was made by the Board. This was to be fair and reasonable sum having regard to circumstances. It was assessed by the reference to the following criteria
- severity of the abuse and injury sustained based on medical evidence;
- emotional and social effects and
- loss of employment or other opportunities.
Direct compensation for loss of earnings was not permitted.
Additional redress of up to 20 percent could be ordered were the Board considered it was appropriate to do so.
Awards could be made for medical expenses incurred for present past or future medical or psychiatric treatment for the effects of injury suffered. Other costs and expenses reasonable incurred including the reasonable causes of legal representation could be awarded.
The sums were generally paid by a lump sum payment. A person who was dissatisfied with the award could apply to the Residential Institutions Redress Committee for review. The Committee could uphold increase or decrease the award.
A person who applied to the Board must agree to give up on the right to civil compensation in respect of the abuse covered. A person who did not accept the award made by the Board or Review Committee on appeal could make an application to courts if they are dissatisfied with the level of the award. However, it was not possible to make a second application to the Board.
The Minster could make regulations specifying the amount to be paid for abuse, injuries and medical expense. He is to have regards to reports prepared with medical and legal expertise on the number of awards for categories of abuse including severity of abuse categories of injury the advice and recommendations generally in respect of such awards including advice in the range of the amount to be paid in an award having regards to the category of abuse and injury.
Utterances by the members or the Board, the Review Committee or members of staff were privileged from legal action. The Board or Review Committee might require evidence on oath.
The Board may have costs taxed by the taxing master.
The relevant institutions were scheduled and numbered over 130. The Board paid an average €63,000 in its awards.