Compensation payments for July bombs 'too low'

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The Independent Online

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), which issued the first two payments on Monday, defended itself yesterday against criticism that the level of compensation was too low and that victims had to wait too long.

More than 200 applications have been received, and 22 offers of compensation, mostly interim, have made by the authority, two of which have been accepted. About 2,500 claims are expected and the final sum could be between £10m and £15m.

Despite some dissatisfaction over the compensation scheme, a poll shows that about 77 per cent of Londoners are happy with the police response to the attacks. Seventy-two per cent believe the conflict in Iraq contributed to the bombings.

The compensation payments available under the CICA scheme - a minimum of £11,000 for bereavement, rising to a maximum of £500,000 for a seriously injured survivor - have been compared unfavourably with the £1.13m ($2m) for each death made by the US government to families of victims of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.

The London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund, set up by Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, and the Red Cross, has also made payments to survivors and the bereaved.

The CICA stressed yesterday that it was restricted by law over the amount it could pay. Howard Webber, the chief executive, said: "English law does not currently recognise grief. What we are doing, albeit a small token of public sympathy, is a larger token than is available through the courts."

Mr Webber said some of the delay was due to the time lapse in receiving applications and the need to wait for police and medical reports. "There was an expectation that we would be able to make emergency payments but that's not what we do - that's not our job and maybe we should have explained that more quickly," he said.

Sean Cassidy, the father of Cieran Cassidy, 22, who was killed by the bomb on the Piccadilly line, said the payments were "an insult". "It's about what a Premiership footballer earns in a day? It's not the most important thing to us, but it seems a very small sum in this day and age for the loss of my son's life."

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."