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Man who was hung from window by nurses can't have €34,000 award reconsidered

The man suffered significant abuse St Gabriel’s Hospital Cabinteely during the 60s.

Image: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

THE COURT OF Appeal has ruled a man who as a child was hung upside down while being held out a window and “swung like a pendulum” by nurses at a hospital he was a patient at cannot have his claim for compensation reconsidered by the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

The man who cannot be named for legal reasons suffered significant abuse St Gabriel’s Hospital Cabinteely in Dublin during the three years, in two spells, he spent there during the 1960′s.

St Gabriel’s was a private institution set up in the 1950′s by Archbishop Charles McQuaid as a special voluntary hospital for rheumatic heart disease.

It was run by a French nursing order the Daughters of the Cross. The man was transferred to St Gabriels from the National Children’s Hospital in Harcourt Street Dublin when he was a young child.

At St Gabriel’s, he was subjected to treatment including being confined to bed and kept immobile for long periods, being force fed and was sedated. He was also hung upside down by nurses while being held out a window and was swung like a pendulum.

As a victim of abuse the man sought compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which held St Gabriel’s was not a scheduled institution under the scheme but awarded him €6000.

The Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee increased the award to €34,000. He appealed the matter to the High Court seeking to have the award quashed. He claimed he was entitled to a greater award given the abuse he suffered at St Gabriels.

The High Court ruled in favour of the man and remitted the matter back to the Redress Board for hearing.

The High Court’s decision was appealed by the Review Committee as St Gabriel’s is not an institution to which the compensation scheme applies and no award was possible for any abuse he suffered there.

In a unanimous judgment the Court of Appeal consisting of Mr Justice Peter Kelly Mr Justice Gerard Hogan and Mr Justice John Edwards today upheld the committee’s appeal. The man fell outside the scope of the scheme because of his residence in a non-scheduled institution.

The Court’s decision means the committee’s award of €34,000 to the man stands.

The court noted that at the time of his admission the man was under the care of Dr Monica Lea Wilson. She was a paediatrician in Harcourt Street and the clinician in charge of St Gabriels.

She directed the man’s transfer. A report submitted by a consultant paediatric cardiologist on behalf of the committee stated his transfer was unnecessary because there was no evidence of rheumatic fever.

In addition the treatment the man was subjected to had no scientific justification even by the standards of the 1960s. The report said the man’s management at St Gabriels was unacceptable and would not have been condoned by any responsible paediatrician or paediatric cardiologist at the time.

Mr Justice Kelly said as the clinician in charge Dr Wilson must have been aware of the practices carried on including the confinement of young children in a sedated state for protracted periods of time.

Mr Justice Kelly said while one cannot but have sympathy for the man. The award of €34,000 was “as generous an award” the committee could give.

The sum was “much less than would have been appropriate had St Gabriel’s been a scheduled institution.”

“Unfortunately the courts are unable to rectify this situation, it is a matter for the legislature,” Mr Justice Kelly said.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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