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Criteria for blocking Troubles pension for former prisoners revealed

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Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson (second right back) with some of the survivors who have campaigned for a pension (Liam McBurney/PA)

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson (second right back) with some of the survivors who have campaigned for a pension (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson (second right back) with some of the survivors who have campaigned for a pension (Liam McBurney/PA)

Details of circumstances which may be used to prevent former prisoners from receiving a Troubles pension have been leaked to the BBC.

The broadcaster has obtained "confidential" draft guidelines which have been circulated to political parties in Northern Ireland.

A row has erupted between Sinn Fein and the DUP over whether prisoners who committed crimes but were impacted by violence during the Troubles should receive the victims' pension.

Sinn Fein has called the regulations "discriminatory and unacceptable", while DUP leader Arlene Foster has said it is "grotesque" that the scheme is not being taken forward to accommodate those "who made people victims in the first place".

The BBC reports the document also details the "guiding principles" the judge-led panel should use when assessing applications from those with a "relevant conviction".

These are generally convictions with longer than a 30 month sentence and will apply to the most "serious crimes such as murder, actual bodily harm etc", the paper states.

An application can also be rejected if the president of the board decides the "exceptional circumstances of the case having regard to material evidence" makes its inappropriate to give the applicant the pension.

This evidence will include recent terrorist activity if the applicant has been convicted under the Terrorism Act, the applicant being a registered terrorist offender, having a recent conviction for membership of a proscribed organisation and if the person caused wholly or in part the incident in which they were injured as evidenced by a case or action proven to a civil standard.

The draft guidelines also set out mitigating factors which the panel must use when deciding if a former prisoner qualifies for a pension.

These include whether the applicant demonstrates remorse, if the offence was committed when the applicant was a juvenile, if a medical adviser appointed by the panel considers that psychological trauma caused by the Troubles may have contributed to subsequent offences and the vulnerability of the applicant due to mental or physical incapacity or brain injury.

Applications for payments to victims of amounts between £2,000 and £10,000 had been due to commence on May 29.

However, the Executive has failed to designate a department to handle the scheme.

The Executive and the UK Government are also in a stalemate as to who will pay for the scheme, which is estimated to cost around £100m.

First Minister Arlene Foster, speaking earlier this week, said: "It is wrong, absolutely wrong, that we should not be implementing this victims' pension because what we are essentially saying is that everybody has been held up to accommodate those people who made them victims in the first place. I think that is grotesque."

Belfast Telegraph