A boy from Northern Ireland who suffered catastrophic brain injuries at the hands of his father has cleared the first stage in a High Court battle over funding for a compensation case potentially worth millions of pounds.
He was granted leave to seek a judicial review into claims that a failure to cover the costs of legal expertise and reports on loss of earnings and future care arrangements is unlawful.
In the first challenge of its kind, lawyers for the child say the case raises systemic issues for compensation arrangements in Northern Ireland.
Now aged 11 and referred to as TA, the boy at the centre of the legal action cannot be identified.
When he was a baby he sustained life-threatening injuries, including a bleed to the brain and four fractured left ribs.
His father was subsequently convicted of child cruelty.
With an application for a payout made under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, the court heard that an award of £178,000 was made in 2017 on an interim basis.
TA’s representatives believe he is entitled to more, and argued that further expert reports are required to properly set out his case.
Judicial review proceedings have been brought against the Compensation Services and the Department of Justice for allegedly failing to provide funding for those assessments.
Lawyers for TA contend that all damages paid under the scheme are needed for the child’s care.
His mother believes it is unfair that the payout could potentially be depleted by footing the bill for complex expert reports and legal expenses.
The court was told that without the proper advice the true value of compensation may never be known.
Counsel contended that the claim could be worth millions of pounds.
Lawyers representing the Department countered that it was a flawed challenge to a revised scheme.
Disputing any alleged human rights breach, they argued that TA has rights to a review in circumstances where the door has not been closed to acquiring further reports if shown to be necessary.
But Mr Justice Scoffield ruled today that the threshold for granting leave to apply for judicial review had been met.
“It’s not possible to say the points raised are unarguable,” he said.
“The case raises issues which are likely, in one way or another to arise, in other cases.”
Proceedings will now advance to a full hearing in May.
Outside court a solicitor for the boy's mother said she believes he should be entitled to every penny paid out.
Ciaran O'Hare, of McIvor Farrell, insisted she cannot accept a situation where compensation is depleted by a process branded "not fit for purpose".
Mr O'Hare added: "This case is also of wider public importance because, if the applicant is successful, it may have systemic ramifications upon the whole of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in Northern Ireland."