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GSD signals concern after court cases highlight ‘administrative failures’

The GSD yesterday flagged a string of recent court cases which it said had not been “handled efficiently”, leading to a potentially sizeable bill for Gibraltar’s taxpayers.

A number of recent court cases have highlighted “administrative failures” and “deficiencies” in care services that need to be addressed, the GSD said.

The GSD said these cases illustrate failures in different areas to the detriment of the taxpayer and members of the community at large.

One case involves a former GHA doctor who secured a default judgement in her favour in a personal injury suit against her employer following a series of procedural failures which, the Opposition said, “will result in cost to the taxpayer”.

The Chronicle reported in last August that the GHA missed a key deadline in a 2014 court order on disclosure of documents, meaning it lost the case without even having contested it.

As a result of this, the GSD said there are questions that need to be addressed as to how claims are handled and defended by public bodies and how the process should be improved.

In a separate case, again reported by the Chronicle earlier this year, the transfer of a former Community Service Officer in June 2017 and the Government’s struggle to fill the position over the course of a year led to a backlog in the number of convicted offenders waiting to carry out court-ordered community service.

“This highlights a need for better succession and recruitment planning,” the GSD said.

The Opposition also highlighted other “significant succession planning issues” in the area of mental health services.

Over the past few months, the psychiatric pool of doctors has dwindled resulting in just two locums overseeing all the workload in Gibraltar.

This has also led to the delays in cases, as revealed by this newspaper last Monday.

Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said delays in the production of psychiatric reports for Gibraltar’s courts were becoming “pressing”.

The backlog comes despite there being no apparent fault in the administrative mechanisms in place to request and produce these reports, suggesting the issue may be down to resources and manpower.

Nonetheless, the backlog has led to delays in certain cases whilst defendants languish on remand.

Not recruiting permanent post-holders can and is affecting the vital continuity of care service to the community, the GSD said.
And yesterday, the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society also expressed concern over the situation.

“Given the anecdotal evidence of the shortage of psychiatric cover which has been presented to the GMWS over the last few months, it would appear that this might be the reason for the pending psychiatric reports not to have been presented to the Courts,” the society said.

Whatever the cause of the backlog, the GMWS added that this was a situation which needs to be redressed immediately.

“It is crucial that the necessary psychiatric assessments are available in order to ensure that the defendant, who might need such a report, will receive an appropriate and timely sentence,” the society said.

For its part, the GSD said lessons must be learned from all these cases to ensure better social, clinical and administrative support in care services – be it in mental health, social services or in claims handling.

“Otherwise a poor service is given to the public with the taxpayer having to foot the bill of any deficiencies that are identified,” the Opposition said.

“Efficient handling of claims can save money that can then be reinvested into public services.”

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