‘Inappropriate’ to make victims’ payout to those guilty of causing serious harm
Anyone convicted of causing serious harm during the Troubles should not be eligible for victims’ compensation payments, new Government guidance states.
Those with a recent terrorism conviction of any sort will also be unable to access the money, according to the guidance.
The guiding principles to determine eligibility have been published amid an ongoing political standoff over the implementation of the long-delayed scheme to support those physically or psychologically injured during the Troubles.
Sinn Fein has refused to proceed with implementation, by designating a Stormont department to administer the scheme, because it believes the Government’s approach could exclude thousands of injured people from the republican community who were involved in the conflict.
In a separate dispute, the Government and Stormont Executive is at odds on who should fund the scheme.
The scheme automatically bars anyone who was injured in an act they were responsible for.
However, there are convicted paramilitaries who were injured in other circumstances during the Troubles, such as those who were targeted by rival gunmen or state forces.
Under the scheme, any injured individuals with a serious conviction, i.e. those who were given a 30-month plus prison sentence, must have their cases assessed by an independent adjudication board to decide whether they are eligible for the payment.
The principles published by the Government will guide the board’s deliberations.
The guidance make clears that it would be inappropriate to award compensation to anyone responsible for causing serious harm, such as anyone guilty of murder, attempted murder or GBH.
The Government has warned that, if the board sets aside this guidance and awards compensation to anyone who falls into that category, it reserves the right to intervene and veto it.
The guidance also outlines the mitigating factors that may lead the board to allocate the payments to someone with a serious conviction.
Those include whether the individual was a juvenile at the time of the offence, whether they had a mental incapacity, and whether they have demonstrated remorse and have not engaged in further criminal since the conviction.
The Government said the board, which will be chaired by a judicial figure, will assess each application on a case-by-case basis.
The payment scheme was legislated for at Westminster at a time when Stormont was still in cold storage due to the powersharing crisis.
The Government legislation handed the responsibility for running the scheme to the devolved executive.
The Government insists that Stormont should fund the payments, but ministers in Belfast insist the Treasury should contribute, highlighting the scheme will be open to victims who live in Great Britain.
The scheme, which should have opened to applications at the end of May, will pay out £2,000 to £10,000 a year depending on the severity of the injury.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis published the guidance on Friday.
It is not substantially different from a leaked version of draft guidance that was made public earlier in the summer.
“The moral and legal obligation to deliver this scheme for victims of the Troubles injured through no fault of their own is undeniable and I hope that the publication of today’s guidance will renew the focus and efforts of the Northern Ireland Executive to move forward to finally deliver for these victims,” he said.
“The political disagreements and delay of the last few years on this issue have gone on long enough.
“It is imperative that Sinn Fein now enable the scheme to move forward by agreeing with all the other parties and urgently designate a department to administer the scheme and get payments to those who will benefit most.”