No payout for gay Soho bomb victim cash

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The Independent Online
THE HOME Office is to examine a "sick" legal discrepancy that has denied one of the Soho bomb victims compensation for the loss of his partner.

Gary Partridge cradled his dying lover John Light in the street after they were caught up in the blast that tore through the Admiral Duncan pub in central London.

Yet, in the eyes of the law, his pain and suffering is not worth the same compensation as an unmarried heterosexual couple. Yesterday Labour MP Ben Bradshaw wrote to the Home Secretary demanding that something be done.

In an embarrassing twist of timing, the discrepancy was revealed on the day the Home Office announced that the Government was once again going to champion the right for an equal age of consent.

Of the compensation discrepancy, Mr Bradshaw said: "I think this is absolutely outrageous. I have written to Jack Straw to ask what he is gong to do about it." The MP for Exeter said he found it "sick" that the prejudice that inspired this brutal act of terror was reflected in the bias of Government guidelines.

"Gary Partridge has been a victim three times. He was a victim of the bomb himself, he has lost a partner and now he has become a victim of an unjust system ... this is just one of many issues where the rights of gay and lesbian couples are simply not recognised."

The couple had joined friends Nik Moore as well as Julian and Andrea Dykes for a night out on 30 April. The group of friends suffered the brunt of the blast that killed 27-year-old Mrs Dykes, Mr Light, 35, and Mr Moore, 31.

Mr Dykes will be entitled to pounds 10,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for the "pain and suffering" of losing his wife. Yet his friend, who was living with Mr Light in a long-term partnership, cannot claim a penny.

"Money is not going to replace what either of us have lost. It's a matter of principle," said Mr Partridge.

The 34-year-old, who survived because his partner was standing between him and the bomb, said: "John gave his life for me and he meant everything to me. We were just as in love as any straight couple. What happened on that night was caused by hatred.

"That's the same hatred that says our partnership was worthless, and it sickens me to find it in our Government regulations. I lost all I had when I lost John. How anyone can say that was worth nothing I will never know," he added.

Yesterday the CICB admitted that guidelines excluded same-sex couples but insisted the responsibility lay with the Home Office.

To qualify for compensation a partner must have been married to the dead person or "living as husband and wife" for at least two years.

A CICB spokesperson said: "Our interpretation of this is that if you are not a husband and wife, either formally married or in common-law, you are not eligible for payment.

"We are the administrators of the scheme but issues of policy ultimately lie with Home Office ministers."

A spokesman for the Home Office said there was an obvious inconsistency, which was being looked into. Recommendations are to be passed to minister Paul Boateng later this year. "This is one of the points subsequently specified where the scheme could be amended. There is obviously inconsistencies in the fact that same sex couples are excluded from the scheme.

"It is being considered by officials within the Home Office and recommendations will be made to ministers later this year."

However, any future changes would come too late for Mr Partridge as any new guidelines are unlikely to offer retrospective settlements.

In a written reply yesterday, Jack Straw announced that the Government is to try once more to equalise the age of consent for homosexuals to 16.

He announced yesterday that the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill will be re-introduced in November's Queen's Speech. The change has twice been rejected in the Lords.

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