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RESIDENTIAL INSTITUTIONS REDRESS BOARD

GUIDE TO HEARING PROCEDURES

April 2003

This Guide deals with the way in which the Board will deal with your application at a hearing. While every attempt is made to ensure that this guide complies with the provisions of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 and the Regulations made under the Act, in the event of a difference the Board must follow the legal provisions. The guidelines may contain differences from earlier publications of the Board as changes have been made in the light of experience.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP

If you are notified that there is to be a hearing in respect of your application, and you are not legally represented, you may obtain help and advice at your discretion from a representative of a Survivors’ Group or Victim Support body. Alternatively, the Board will be happy to answer your questions and to give you further information about the way in which the hearing will be conducted. In any event, you may bring a relative or close friend to give you support at the hearing.


SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS

Please tell the Board if you have any special needs with which we can help you.

  • Documents in large print
  • Documents in such a way as to assist the unsighted
  • Wheelchair access to the hearing room
  • Need someone to sign due to hearing difficulties
  • Other (please specify in advance).

Please note that wheelchair users have access to the Board’s hearing rooms at Clonskeagh and the toilets are suitable for persons with disabilities. If the hearing is to be held elsewhere please advise the Board of any special access needs.

If you have a hearing or reading difficulty, you may bring someone with you to the hearing or if you ask the Board in advance we can provide someone to help

Please note that there are no child-care facilities at any hearing centre, so you should make alternative arrangements. You will need to keep the whole day free. The Board will pay the reasonable cost of child-care while you are attending a hearing.


WHY A HEARING HAS BEEN ARRANGED

The Board may hold a hearing in respect of an application for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. The applicant has signified that he or she wishes to give oral evidence to the Board or to call witnesses to give oral evidence on his or her behalf;
  2. The Board has requested the applicant or a person who has given written evidence on behalf of the applicant to give oral evidence in respect of one or more matters arising from the application;
  3. The Board considers it appropriate to hear the oral evidence of a person requested by the Board to give evidence in respect of the application;
  4. The Board considers it appropriate to hear the oral evidence of the applicant and his or her medical advisers in respect of a medical report prepared by the Board’s medical advisers;
  5. The Board has permitted a relevant person to give oral evidence in respect of the application.


THE HEARING PAPERS

The Board’s Registrar will make a compilation of all the written evidence to be considered at the hearing of your application; this collection is known as “the hearing papers”.

You can help the Registrar by providing as quickly as possible any additional information which he asks you to give the Board.

The hearing papers will consist of a covering list setting out all the documents which you should have at the hearing, which will normally be as follows:

  • Your application form;
  • Any proof of identity and of residence which you have provided;
  • Any document which you have specifically requested the Board to obtain and which has been provided by the appropriate person;
  • Any written statements given to the Board by persons giving evidence on your behalf;
  • All medical reports which you have given to the Board;
  • Any written statement given to the Board by a relevant person;
  • Any written statement given to the Board by a person requested by the Board to give evidence in respect of your application;
  • A medical report made by the Board’s medical advisers.

Any of the above papers which you do not already possess will be forwarded to you after the Board’s legal team have finally reviewed the file and notified you that the matter is now ready for hearing. This communication will be called a Completion Letter and will also contain an indication of any particular part of your application about which the Board wishes to hear evidence or submissions. If any issue such as proof of identity, proof of residence or difficulties about written medical evidence already tendered has not been raised in the past or is not raised in this letter or accompanying documentation, then at the hearing that issue need not be the subject of any evidence other than that of the applicant. This is to prevent the attendance of unnecessary witnesses. The Board will resist the awarding of costs to witnesses called unnecessarily. Similarly, if the Board advises in the Completion Letter that the application is suitable for settlement, it should be assumed that witnesses other than the applicant will not be necessary should the case go to hearing.

Please check the documents carefully and tell the Board immediately if you think anything is wrong or missing. In particular, please make sure that the hearing papers contain all the medical evidence about your injuries and treatment and that this evidence is as up to date as possible.

If we do not hear from you within 14 days, we will arrange your hearing. Once arranged, the hearing will not be postponed unless there is a very good reason.


NOTICE OF HEARING

The Board will give you at least four weeks notice of the hearing by sending you a NOTICE OF HEARING form giving you details of where and when the hearing will be held. You will be expected to confirm in writing that you will attend. (Please note that the period of four weeks is a reduction from the six weeks originally mentioned.) Hearings may be arranged at shorter notice by agreement.

The hearing will normally be in the Board’s premises in Clonskeagh, Dublin, but arrangements may be made in the case of applicants living more than 50 miles from Dublin for hearings to be held at a more convenient venue.

If these arrangements are not suitable, you should contact the Board immediately so that consideration can be given to making alternative arrangements. Changing arrangements will be only permitted in exceptional cases.

Special note for counsel and solicitors

The process of the Redress Board cannot be held up by non-availability of counsel, solicitors or other matters of this kind. Please note that the Board will not limit its hearings to the Law Terms and those who wish to represent clients must appreciate that this is a necessary discipline in a process of this nature. However, applications will not be listed without agreement in August or for 4 days before and 3 days after Easter or Christmas. Public Holidays will be non-working days.


THE ROLE OF THE BOARD’S LEGAL ADVISER

The Board will normally be represented by either a solicitor or counsel at the hearing, but in certain circumstances may sit without a legal adviser. If present, the solicitor or counsel’s role will be advisory in nature and not adversarial. The Board must leave the make-up of the applicant’s representation to each applicant; but the Board will normally resist any application for costs in respect of more than one solicitor and one barrister.
WITNESSES

The Board cannot compel a person to give evidence so if there is anyone whom you believe should give evidence on your behalf, it is important that you make the necessary arrangements for them to attend the hearing. Witnesses other than the applicant will not be necessary to prove matters not flagged as live issues in the completion letter sent prior to the listing of the case.


EXPENSES

The Board will pay all reasonable travelling expenses, a subsistence allowance and, if a person takes time off work to attend the hearing, his or her loss of wages, as follows:

  • Your travel expenses by train or bus between your home and the hearing venue. More expensive methods of travel should be approved in advance.
  • The travel expenses of anyone who needs to come with you because you cannot travel alone or need their assistance or moral support at the hearing
  • The travel expenses of any person who is giving oral evidence on your behalf (provided we have agreed beforehand that they need to come to the hearing)
  • The wages or salary lost by you, a person giving you necessary assistance or your witness as a result of attending the hearing. Lost wages or salary means the actual net loss after deductions for tax and social welfare, and should be set out in a letter from the employer of the person concerned.
  • Subsistence allowance if you are absent from home or otherwise stay at the hearing for more than five hours
  • The cost of a baby-sitter or carer actually incurred (if supported by a letter from the sitter/carer confirming the payment).

Unless agreed beforehand by the Board, we will not pay for the expense of a witness from outside the state.

All claims for travel expenses must be supported by receipts and tickets. All expenses will be paid at the end of the process but if travelling expenses to the hearing are a problem an advance of your cost of travel can be applied for during the 4 weeks leading up to the hearing.


IMPORTANT NOTE

The Board may, in the interests of fairness and justice, permit a person named in your application as a person who abused you and/or a person representing the management of the institution in which you were resident to attend the hearing. Unless you are informed in advance that this is the case, you can assume that no such person will be present.

THE HEARING

Assistance at the hearing

The Board appreciates that giving evidence may be a distressing experience, and that you may wish to be accompanied by a relative, friend or professional counsellor. This is a matter for you to decide, and the Board will do its best to make appropriate facilities available so that you can discuss any matter connected with your application in private before and after the hearing. The provision of these facilities will be more structured in the main office in Clonskeagh than in other locations.

As many applicants will already be receiving help as part of an ongoing programme (into which the Board would not wish to interpose a new counsellor), if you wish to have a counsellor available for you on the day of the hearing, you should make the necessary arrangements with your own counsellor. But if this is not possible for any reason, and you wish to have available the services of a professional counsellor before or after the hearing, the Board will make the necessary arrangements provided you give it advance notice.

A professional counsellor will not normally be permitted to sit in at the hearing itself. If you are legally represented, it is expected that you will be supported at the hearing by your solicitor and/or barrister. If you are not legally represented, if you wish you may bring a family member or friend to sit with you during the hearing in order to give you moral support.

You may also be accompanied during the hearing if you have any disability or need a helper or if you have hearing difficulties and need someone to act as a signer.

If you have any doubts about who can attend the hearing with you, please telephone the Board.

When you arrive

Please arrive at the hearing centre at least 15 minutes before your hearing is due to start. The Board’s receptionist will welcome you and deal with any queries you may have.

If you are legally represented, your solicitor (and barrister) will advise you at what time they wish to meet you on the day of the hearing.

When you arrive at the hearing centre, you will be asked to sit in a waiting room with any representative, relatives or friends who have accompanied you. As soon as the Board is ready to hear your case, you will be shown into the hearing room

The hearing in general

The length of hearings depends on the matters which the Board needs to consider, but normally a hearing should not last for longer than two hours. The hearing will take place in private, so that no one who is not connected with your application will be present.

The hearing will usually be conducted by a panel of two or three members of the Board. At least one member will have a legal background, and one will have a medical background. Also present will be a Registrar and a stenographer. The Board may be represented by a solicitor or counsel, whose role will be to raise any matters of concern to the Board by questioning you or your witnesses, or by calling other witnesses to give evidence in relation to your application.

The Redress Board is not a court of law, and the procedure at the hearing will be kept as informal as possible. But the hearing of your application is a serious matter and the procedure must reflect that fact.

Any person giving oral evidence will be asked to take an oath or make an affirmation in the usual way. All persons giving evidence to the Board are bound to tell the truth, and there are serious penalties which may be imposed if it is found that a person has been deliberately untruthful to the Board, or intentionally misled it in any way.

What happens at the hearing

When you enter the hearing room, you will be asked to sit at a table with your legal representative or anyone with you for moral support.

The Chairperson will welcome you and explain what will happen. Please ask if you are unsure about anything. Remember the hearing is meant to be as informal as possible. You should normally address any questions to the Chairperson, whose name will be displayed in front of him or her.

The Chairman will then identify the particular matters, if any, which the Board wishes to consider at the hearing. These will normally have been identified in the Completion Letter sent to you before the hearing.

The procedure at the hearing may vary, but normally you will be asked to give your evidence first. Please remember that the Board members will have read the Hearing Papers, and it may not therefore be necessary to go into all the details of your application.

As you are giving your evidence you may be questioned by a member of the Board who wishes to clarify what you have said. When you have finished giving your evidence, you may be questioned by the Board’s solicitor or counsel. You may also be questioned by a representative of the institution or person whom you have named as your abuser; but this will not happen unless you have been notified in advance that this person has been permitted to attend the hearing.

Please remember that it is important that the Board has the full facts in relation to your application in order to reach a fair and just decision in your case. You may find some of the questions direct and sometimes probing, but it will always be courteous and sensitive.

When the Board has heard all your evidence, it will then want to hear the evidence of any witnesses called on your behalf. The procedure followed with regard to these witnesses will be the same as when you gave your evidence.

When all the evidence on your behalf has been given, other witnesses may be called to give evidence on behalf of a relevant person. In addition, witnesses may be called by counsel for the Board to give evidence relevant to your application, although this will be unusual. Subject to the guidance of the Board, you are entitled to question any of these witnesses if you do not agree with their evidence.

A written record will be made of all evidence given at the hearing. You may also notice Board members making notes of the evidence, which will be used by them to help them make their decision.

When all the evidence has been given, the Chairperson will ask you if you have any final comments or submissions to make by way of summing up you case. The Board members will then leave the hearing room to consider the application in private. When they return, the Chairperson will, if possible, tell you the Board’s decision. But there will be some circumstances in which the Board will require further time to consider its decision, and in such a case the Chairperson will explain when you will be told the outcome of the hearing.

Written notice of decision

In all cases, you will be given written notice of the Board’s decision. When you receive this notice, you have one calendar month in which to decide whether you accept it. There is particular merit in taking legal advice on this step if you have not been legally represented at the hearing.

If you decide to accept, you will be required to notify the Board in writing, and to waive certain rights to bring civil proceedings in respect of the matters set out in your application. You will be further notified on this matter after the award has been made.

If you decide not to accept, you have the right to apply to the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee to review your award. This Committee can increase, confirm or reduce the award of the Board. You are recommended to seek legal advice before accepting the Board’s award or sending it for review.

You can also reject the award without seeking a review, in which case your claim can only be pursued in the ordinary Courts. You should be aware that in civil court proceedings different rules apply which could affect your chances of success. If you wish to consider the option of rejection, you are strongly advised to seek legal advice before you inform the Board of your decision.

It is vital that you consider and act in good time within the calendar month allowed whether to accept, send for review or reject the award. If you do nothing within this calendar month, you will be deemed to have rejected the award and the Board cannot thereafter make an award to you in respect of the matters which formed the subject of your application, and you will have no right to apply to the Review Committee.

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