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Cops claiming from robbery victim 'could get payout off State instead'

By Claire O'Boyle

PSNI officers seeking compensation from a man whose car was stolen in a violent robbery could turn to a government scheme instead, it has been claimed.

Terence Duffin's vehicle was written off in a police chase last August almost 50 miles from his home in Newcastle, Co Down.

Three officers involved in the crash issued personal injury claims, adding to the trauma the retired telephone engineer suffered after his home was ransacked at knifepoint.

"It's been a very difficult time," said the 62-year-old. "Making it worse is the fact these police officers are claiming from my insurance.

"It could mean my premiums rocket, even though they know I was the victim here, that my house was raided and my car was stolen and destroyed.

"Initially I was told they had no other option but to claim from my insurance, but now knowing they could look instead at a government scheme makes it even more difficult to take.

"If they weren't aware of this as a possibility before, they should consider it now and leave me out of it.

"I understand they have been injured and the system is very complicated, but I have enough to deal with preparing for the criminal trial."

According to one legal expert, the officers could claim compensation from the State through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme because the alleged injuries came during "the apprehension or attempted apprehension of an offender or a suspected offender". But personal injury lawyer Jennifer Young said a claim from Mr Duffin's insurance was the most straightforward option for the officers.

"With the Government scheme there is the extra onus on the officers to prove there was some criminal intent from the driver to injure them," she explained.

"To go through the motor insurance route is much more straightforward and gives them a greater chance of success."

The first officer made moves to seek damages from Mr Duffin's insurance within two weeks of the robbery. A second followed a week later.

And to Mr Duffin's shock, a third civil claim came just this month, after a pay-out was agreed with one of the other officers.

"It's just when I thought things would finally settle down that another one has come forward," he said.

"I've been through enough and despite the trauma we suffered after men threatened me, my sisters and a friend, not one of us has made a personal injury claim.

"To add insult to injury, my name was written on the civil claim beside the name of the man facing trial for robbing me and writing off my car, as if we are somehow connected.

"I understand these officers are entitled to seek compensation, but it doesn't seem right that this is their best option."

A PSNI spokesperson said the force did not hold any information in relation to officers making compensation claims against the owners of stolen vehicles.

"It is important to note that the same rules apply for any individual wanting to pursue a civil claim, whether they are a police officer or member of the public," they added.

"It is important to clarify the officers are not claiming against the victim's insurance, they are claiming against the Motor Insurers Bureau.

"It is a matter between the insured and the insurance company as to whether or not in the event of their vehicle being stolen and involved in a collision, the insurance company will treat that incident as a claim under their policy."

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