'Unease' at PSNI's £12m payoff to officers for hearing damage sustained in firearms training
The PSNI paid almost £12m to compensate former police officers for hearing loss over two years, the service has said.
During the Troubles, the RUC was the only routinely armed police force in the UK and undertook regular firearms training.
The successful claims are based on the failure of senior officers to provide proper ear protection for colleagues using the weapons at work, the Police Federation said.
Details of payments have been revealed by the PSNI in response to a Freedom of Information request.
Between October 2013 and last autumn, 2,415 cases were settled for £11.9m, averaging just under £5,000 per person.
Thousands of former RUC officers have lodged legal cases for damages.
Sinn Fein said some officers were being compensated twice for the same injury and claimed the totals were staggering. Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said: "There is a clear duty to deal with claims for compensation where people have had an injury on duty.
"However, there has been considerable public disquiet about the level of some claims, particularly the staggering level of hearing loss claims, which in many cases were being paid to people who were being compensated twice for the same injury, sustained by using the firing range without using ear protection."
A spokesman for the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), which represents rank and file officers, said police were no different from other employees injured at work.
"There were deficiencies in the ways in which officers were protected from damage to their hearing," the spokesman said.
"A rigorous claims process is in place and each claim is only settled after due diligence and professional medical assessment.
"The average amount of £4,969 reflects the damage that was inflicted on an individual's hearing." He said it was an issue of protection and entitlement.
"These claims come forward because damage has been caused and all officers are awarded what the courts deem to be appropriate settlements."
A statement from the PSNI's legal services branch said the service was confident that all claims against the organisation, whether brought by officers or staff or members of the public, were dealt with appropriately.
"Legal advice is provided by PSNI's legal services branch, with advice sought from the Crown Solicitor's Office and counsel, in appropriate cases," the statement read. "All PSNI use of funds is subject to internal and external oversight.
"In the event that a particular case raises issues of wider application, appropriate learning is applied in order to seek to avoid recurrence."