High Court reporters
A young woman with severe intellectual and mobility issues has launched a High Court action over her exclusion from a State scheme which covers the costs of adapting vehicles for permanently disabled persons.
The scheme she seeks access to falls under the 1994 Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Regulations.
It has been claimed on the woman’s behalf that her appeal against a refusal to allow her access the scheme has not been processed due to the failure of the Ministers for Finance and Transport to appoint persons to the board that determines such applications.
It is claimed that the members of the appeal board, known as Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, all resigned in October 2021.
The woman claims the two Ministers have not nominated new members to the board, which would allow it carry out its functions.
The action has been brought on behalf of the woman, who lives with her family in a rural part of Ireland with no public transport. She cannot be identified by order of the court.
The woman has severe intellectual disability, autism, and poor perception, resulting in her having considerable physical limitations and requires support in all areas of her daily living.
Previous attempts were made by her family to get access to the scheme but were unsuccessful as she was deemed not to meet the criteria necessary for inclusion. Her family had campaigned to have the scheme reformed.
Following a Supreme Court decision in an action taken by another party, another application was made on the young woman’s behalf in 2022 for a medical certificate which she requires to be allowed access the scheme.
Her family had wanted to adapt a car which would make it easier to transport her.
The modification of the family car would greatly assist in ensuring her safety and helping her deal with her difficulties getting in and out of the vehicle.
Last November that application, was refused, and an appeal was lodged.
It is claimed that in a response the board failed to determine her appeal and apologised for the inconvenience, stating this was caused by reasons beyond its control. The applicant was instead advised to address her application to the Ministers for Finance and Transport.
No timeframe was given by the board as to when her appeal would be determined, she also claims.
In her action it is claimed that her appeal must be determined by the board within a reasonable period. She claims that all five members of the board offered their resignation to the Minister for Finance in October 2021.
Since then, it is claimed that the Minister for Finance has failed to make any adequate appointments to the board to allow it to adequately perform its statutory duties, which it is claimed has resulted in the woman being deprived of her appeal remedy.
Her family does not know if the Minister for Transport has made any adequate nominations to the Minister for Finance in respect of the board.
As a result of her ongoing exclusion from the scheme, the woman, suing through her mother, has brought judicial review proceedings against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, the Minister for Finance, and the Minister for Health.
The applicant seeks various orders and declarations from the court, including orders quashing the Board of Appeal’s refusal to determine her appeal within a reasonable period, and that her appeal be determined within a reasonable period of time.
She also seeks an order requiring the Minister for Finance to appoint five medical practitioners to the board for a period of four years.
The applicant also seeks various declarations including that the Ministers have breached the woman’s rights to fair procedures, and rights under EU law by failing to provide an effective remedy in respect of her appeal.
The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan. The judge, following submissions by Derek Shortall SC, for the applicant, granted her permission to bring her challenge.
The matter will come back before the court in June.