Tuesday 26 September 2017

Anger as PSNI officer who lost his leg in dissident IRA bomb is not entitled to compensation

Steven McCaffery

THE Northern Ireland government could face pressure from rank and file police officers after it emerged a colleague who lost a leg in a bomb attack has been unable to secure compensation.



Peadar Heffron suffered major injuries after a device planted by dissidents opposed to the peace process exploded under his car in Randalstown, Co Antrim, as he drove to work in January 2010.



But now the Police Federation, which represents members of the service, said it is to lobby Stormont after the officer unsuccessfully sought industrial injury compensation.



Federation chairman Terry Spence said: "What signal does this send out to officers in the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), who put their lives at risk every day?"



Sources close to the case told the investigative journalism website, The Detail, that the controversy centred on regulations which effectively query whether the officer was on duty at the time of the attack.



The 35-year-old is a Catholic officer who played Gaelic football for the police and operated as an Irish language specialist for the new-look service, which has sought to attract greater numbers of recruits from the nationalist community.



The attempt on his life was seen, not only as a murder bid, but also as an effort to deter support for the cross-community PSNI.



The car bombing was condemned by all the main political parties, who labelled it as an attack on efforts to build a peaceful future.



It is understood lawyers for the officer are pursuing the case and now Mr Spence said he will write to Stormont's Department for Social Development, which is ultimately responsible for the issue.



The Federation chair said: "I have spoken to Peadar and his wife, and they believe there is a point of principle here."



Mr Spence said all wounded officers received a salary while they recuperated ahead of their return to work.



But others who sought industrial compensation to cope with the repercussions of life-changing injuries had suffered mixed fortunes.



Mr Spence argued that there appeared to be a lack of clarity and said it could yet be necessary for government to redraft the existing regulations.



"What signal does this send out to officers in the PSNI who put their lives at risk every day - on duty and off duty - and to their families?" he said.



"I will, in the first instance, be writing to the Minister for Social Development for an explanation."



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