The State could be liable in Personal Injuries Actions over school’s failure to adequately protect students from Bullying.

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The case of O’Keeffe v Ireland has dramatically changed the responsibility the State has in protecting pupils in public education. The outcome of this case may mean that the State is liable for Personal Injuries sustained by pupils as a result of being bullied by their peers.

Ms O’Keeffe had sued the State for Personal Injuries and breach of Constitutional rights arising from the sexual abuse she suffered at the hand of a teacher. Ms O’Keffe’s case was dismissed in both the High Court and Supreme Court on the basis that the State could not be vicariously liable for the acts of the teacher, due to the relationship of the state and denominational management of national schools. They also found that she had no action for breach of Constitutional rights given that the law of tort protected her rights.

However on appeal, the European Court of Human Rights over turned the decision of the Supreme Court, stating that the decision was a violation of Article 3 and 13 of the of the European Convention on Human Rights. In its decision it stated that given the ‘vulnerable nature of children, it is an inherent obligation of government to ensure their protection from ill treatment, especially in a primary education context, through the adoption, as necessary, of special measures and safeguard.

This judgment could potentially mean that State may be liable for Personal Injuries suffered by pupils due to bullying, in circumstances where the school is shown to lack sufficient anti-bullying measures.

If you have any queries regarding personal injuries or any other aspects of Law, please do not hesitate to contact Hanahoe and Hanahoe, Solicitors, 16 North Main Street, Naas, County Kildare.

Tel: 045 897784     086 6013611 (24 hours)




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