Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


5:15 pm

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Insurance fraud should never pay. Insurance fraud costs each and every one of us in this country. Someone making a fake injury claim believes there are no consequences but there are significant consequences for each and every one of us. The difficulty is that there is no downside for the individuals involved in making fraudulent claims. We hear regularly that fraudulent claims are thrown out of court but there is no follow-up or no penalties imposed on the individuals involved in taking those claims in the first place. There is no cost or consequence as a result of this practice. The majority of claimants who take cases in the courts do so in good faith. However, a small minority are making fraudulent claims in the hope of gaining large awards of tens or hundreds of thousands of euro and, as I said, without any risk to themselves.

We all accept that there is no single measure which can tackle insurance costs in this country, but fraudulent and exaggerated claims have an impact on the increasing cost of insurance. Every week, the Garda Síochána receives reports of fraudulent insurance claims. There is a perception that fraud and exaggerated claims have been increasing in recent years without any consequence or risk to the claimants submitting them to the courts.

The purpose of the Bill before us is to increase the penalties for those found guilty of an offence under section 26 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, which deals with fraudulent actions. Our Bill is based on amending legislation that was in the past brought forward by the current Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, and by former Deputy Billy Kelleher. However, we have added to the draft of the legislation that was brought forward previously by colleagues. The Bill states that where a person's case has been dismissed pursuant to section 26 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, the plaintiff must pay the legal expenses of the defendant. The Bill goes on to state that in the event of a case being struck out because of fraudulent evidence, the court will be allowed to direct that the matter be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for investigation. However, it leaves the discretion with the judge in that instance. The Bill also increases the fines that the District Court can hand down under the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 from the current €3,000 up to the maximum permitted class A fine, which currently stands at €5,000.

The legislation would bring this very innovative and unique provision into Irish law to provide discretion to a judge to refer a case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. We believe it is imperative that such a provision is set out in law. We hope the Government will support the principle behind the Bill and allow it to progress to Committee Stage.


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