Garda attacks: compensation

SIXTEEN people had to be compensated by the Department of Justice last year, having been assaulted while being arrested or in garda custody, it has emerged.

A total of €522,500 was paid out in damages to people who said they had been attacked or mistreated by gardaí.

The payments were among hundreds of compensation claims over the past 18 months involving gardaí and civilians.

Gardaí injured in the line of duty have claimed €4.5m in compensation already this year, the department has said. In the first six months of the year, 134 gardaí successfully sued their employer for injuries sustained at work.

The department said the majority of injuries were "fractures, human bites, needle stick injuries, soft tissue injuries and psychological injuries".

Exact details of cases taken by the gardaí this year have not been made available but a list of legal actions for accidental injuries from 2008 has.

It shows that €438,507 was paid out to gardaí who had mishaps on duty last year.

In two instances, the Department of Justice has been sued by gardaí who fell off a horse while on duty. In one case, legal costs of €18,871 have already accrued while in the other a settlement of €30,000 was paid, with €35,066 racked up in legal bills.

Seven cases involving hearing loss, where gardaí were exposed to loud gunshots or other environmental noise, were also dealt with last year, according to the department.

Damages of up to €27,000 were paid in six of those cases and the total amount paid out came to €78,545.

Other cases the department was forced to settle included those of gardaí who had "alleged anxiety", a garda injured by a piece of metal, a garda who slipped on a wet floor and another who was hurt while lifting a barrier.

The taxpayer has also had to foot the bill for €2.4m paid out this year to members of the public who have taken legal action against the gardaí.

Of that total, more than €1.3m went on legal costs; less than half of the money actually went to the victims of garda wrong-doing.

In 2008, 161 people took cases against the gardaí. Many of the cases alleged assault, defamation, malicious prosecution or wrongful arrest.

In one case, a person who was subject to a "malicious prosecution" was paid out €112,500 in a settlement made with the gardaí.

Another person received €200,000 on foot of a sexual assault case while a dozen people received settlements for alleged assaults.

The largest single claim involved costs of €2.3m incurred during a malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment case. It is thought that the money relates to legal bills arising from the aftermath of corrupt policing in Donegal.