Anger as Dunblane constables demand £800,000

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The Independent Online

The father of a girl who lost her life, aged five, in the Dunblane massacre reacted angrily yesterday to news that two constables had relaunched their compensation claim for £800,000.

The father of a girl who lost her life, aged five, in the Dunblane massacre reacted angrily yesterday to news that two constables had relaunched their compensation claim for £800,000.

Charlie Clydesdale, 43, was refused compensation after the murder of his daughter, Victoria, while many other victims have complained of paltry pay-outs amounting to as little as £4,500.

The two female police officers, however, are suing their force for £400,000 each, insisting they were offered insufficient counselling to deal with the psychological trauma.

News of their relaunched claim emerged as a critical report by MPs revealed that victims of violent crime were waiting too long for compensation. The criminal injuries compensation authority has been taking up to two years to resolve cases, said the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

The Authority's predecessor - the criminal injuries compensation board - has handed out around £4.25m to those affected by the tragedy when Thomas Hamilton gunned down 16 Dunblane primary school pupils and their teacher. The amount, however, has been shared out between hundreds of applications - and compensation has been small for many.

To date, 325 have been settled with 28 cases yet to be considered or completed.

Mr Clydesdale expressed outrage at the news that Constables Suzanne Ogg, 27, and Catriona Ewing, 31, had relaunched their case. It was originally started in March last year but halted four months later. The lawyer acting on behalf of the women officers, Ian Watson, yesterday confirmed they were re- launching their legal action. He said: "I have carried out extensive investigations and they have been concluded. "We are now happy for the matter to proceed to court."

The two officers, who had to deal with distraught relatives during the aftermath of the shootings, claim they suffered severe psychological problems and their careers had been destroyed by the events of 13 March 1996.

"Personally, I don't think they deserve anything because if they couldn't hack it they shouldn't have been in the job in the first place," said Mr Clydesdale of Falkirk.

"I don't agree with what they're doing. The stress they suffered is nothing in comparison to what the families went through," he said.

"I was happy when I heard they had ceased their civil action, but obviously someone has told them they can still make some money out of what happened," he added.

The news of the fresh legal bid came on the day Central Scotland Police's new Chief Constable, Andrew Cameron, took up his post. He said that his force planned to defend the civil action "vigorously".

The report by the cross-party Commons Public Accounts Committee, Compensating Victims of Violent Crime, said claims for the scheme varied too widely across Great Britain.

Under the scheme, members of the public receive compensation ranging from £1,000 to £250,000, according to the severity of their injury.

Conservative MP David Davis, the committee chairman, said: "At present, there appear to be wide regional variations in awareness of the scheme and applications are taking much too long to process. This is wholly unacceptable. Victims of crimes should not also be victims of bureaucracy."

Howard Webber, the chief executive of the authority, said: "We welcome the Public Accounts Committee's report on our work and shall consider its recommendations very carefully."

"In particular we are pleased with how the Committee has built on the findings of the National Audit Office that our staff are helpful and considerate, and that our processes and productivity compare well with private sector insurance companies carrying out similar work," he said.

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