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Letter: Compensation for loss of young lives

Sir: While the families of those who died in the Marchioness disaster are grateful for your endorsement of our call for a statutory right to a public inquiry in major incident cases, there was one error in your comment piece ("Obstacles to justice compounded grief", 8 April), which we wish to correct. You stated that the way now lay open for claims for compensation by the families. Such claims have already been made and except for a handful of cases have been settled. In seeking the inquest and the verdict of unlawful killing, no one was motivated by any consideration relating to a compensation claim.

Families claiming for compensation have, under the law on fatal accidents as it stands, received hardly anything over and above the cost of the funeral. Many people have lost jobs, homes and relationships due to bereavement grief in the aftermath of the disaster, but English law does not recognise this in the absence of actual financial dependency at the time of death. When young unmarried people die in circumstances of gross negligence as here, death comes cheap and the boat owners and their insurance companies suffer little in the way of financial penalties. It is not only in the field of criminal law that the Marchioness families have been let down by the system.

Yours faithfully,


Christian Fisher Solicitors

London, WC1

10 April

The writer is the solicitor acting for 43 families whose relatives died in the `Marchioness' disaster.