Bomb victim families 'will get only £11,000'

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The Independent Online

The families of the 52 victims killed in the 7 July bomb attacks will be eligible for just £11,000 each under a compensation scheme funded by the Government.

They will be entitled to that amount if they apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme which pays out to victims of crime.

That figure compares with around $2 million (£1.13 million) for each death claim made by families of 11 September victims to the US Government.

If more than one family member of a 7 July victim applies for compensation they will only get £5,500 each. They will also be entitled to "reasonable" extra payments to cover funeral costs. Dependent children are entitled to £2,000 a year until they turn 18.

Under the scheme, a maximum figure of £500,000 can be paid to survivors who are seriously debilitated and claim for loss of earnings and care costs as well as compensation.

Survivor Davinia Turrell, who became known to millions across the world as "the woman in the mask" when she was photographed after the bombings, could be eligible for up to £27,000 as a burns victim should she choose to apply.

But the scheme has strict guidelines under which the families of deceased victims receive only a fraction of the maximum payouts.

The scheme has existed since 1964 and is run in England, Scotland and Wales by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and is funded by the Home Office.

Supporters of the scheme argue that the sum given to victims' families should not be seen as the value of a life but as a "token of public sympathy".

The Home Office pays out more than £200 million a year under the scheme to thousands of crime victims and says it is one of the "most generous" such systems in the world.

But it has faced criticism in the past from some families, including one relative of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor who called the compensation available "an insult".

Victims' groups have also condemned the level of compensation for families as "a pittance".

A spokesman for the Victims of Crime Trust said: "Families should be given probably 100 times as much because, let's face it, they have to live with this tragedy for the entirety of their lives. It has to be more than £11,000.

"This is only supposed to be a token but it should be more than a token. Murder destroys far more than just the victim's life, it destroys the lives of families and communities, and it's about time the Government raised its level of payments to victims' families.

"Prisoners in jail have access to open-ended legal aid to pursue their claims and get true compensation so why shouldn't the victims get true compensation?"

The level of compensation paid to families who have lost a loved one is similar to that given to a victim of crime who loses their sense of smell or taste or suffers a damaged wrist or dislocated hip.

It is significantly less than the £33,000 paid for scarring from burns, £27,000 for the loss of an eye or £16,500 for tinnitus.

Overall, the level of state payments to victims of crime under the scheme is dwarfed by some of the huge windfalls received by people suing in the civil courts or claiming stress and discrimination at work.

The parents of child murder victim James Bulger got £7,500 compensation.

The scheme was also criticised after nursery nurse Lisa Potts, who suffered terrible injuries protecting children from a machete attack in 1996, was originally told she was entitled to just £49,000.

Her union described the payment as "pitiful" and she eventually got £70,000.

Josie Russell, who saw her mother and sister murdered and suffered terrible head injuries herself, was at first offered only £18,500, although this was later increased to £79,000.

Millions of pounds have been donated by the public and businesses to a separate Bombings Relief Charitable Fund to help bereaved relatives and the injured from the July 7 blasts.

The Government donated £1 million to the fund and the Queen has also made a "substantial donation" to that fund set up by London Mayor Ken Livingstone the day after the attacks.