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Judge recommends establishment of tribunal to deal with CervicalCheck claims

In his report, Justice Meenan recognises the “courage and fortitude” of the woman affected and their families.

Vicky Phelan and solicitor Cian O'Carroll arriving at the funeral of Emma Mhic Mhathúna in Dublin
Vicky Phelan and solicitor Cian O'Carroll arriving at the funeral of Emma Mhic Mhathúna in Dublin
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

A REPORT ON an alternative system for dealing with claims arising out of the CervicalCheck crisis has recommended that a tribunal be set up. 

Justice Charles Meenan was tasked by the government in August with identifying further mechanisms to avoid adversarial court proceedings for the women and families affected by the CervicalCheck scandal. 

The judge’s report, which has been published this afternoon, has proposed that a tribunal be established under legislation to hear and determine claims in relation to CervicalCheck.

Hearings in the tribunal would be heard in private and be less formal than a court process. 

In a letter addressed to Minister for Health Simon Harris, which accompanied the report, Justice Meenan said: “Having consulted with various parties and considered the matter I am advising that a tribunal be established for the purposes of hearing and determining claims arising from CervicalCheck.” 

The report outlines that the alternative system would take into account the issue of liability, each person’s Constitutional right of access to the courts and all parties’ Constitutional rights to fair procedures. 

For these reasons, Justice Meenan notes that the system must be voluntary. 

In his report, Justice Meenan recognises the “courage and fortitude” of the woman affected and their families. 

“The recent tragic deaths of a number of women from cervical cancer underline the urgency of the situation,” he said in his letter to Harris. 

Justice Meenan added that the tribunal which he has proposed could, with modification, “have application to other medical negligence claims”. 

“As chairman of the expert group on medical negligence and tort reform, we will consider my proposal to see if it could have wider application,” he said. 

In a statement, Harris said: “I would like to thank Judge Meenan for his invaluable report. He has carried out an extensive piece of work, including consultation with the women, their families and their representatives. 

“Judge Meenan’s report requires consideration by a number of government departments and I have committed this morning to returning to government with proposals next month.” 

This report by Justice Meenan is separate to the work he is undertaking as chair of the expert group on tort reform and the management of clinical negligence claims. 

The interim report on the work of that group will be provided to Minister Harris and the Minister for Justice and Equality in early December. Its final report is due to be provided in early 2019. 

Earlier today, the Irish Times reported that, according to CervicalCheck, women are having to wait 18 weeks and longer for the results of their smear tests for cervical cancer, three times longer than normal. 

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