Belfast Telegraph

Police 'entitled to claim,' says PSNI after burglary victim receives compensation letter

Call for police to put in place measures to end practice

The PSNI has defended its officer's actions after a woman whose house was burgled and had her car stolen received a letter of claim from one of those involved.

The case was highlighted by the Irish News on Monday after a west Belfast woman had her car taken in a creeper-style burglary.

During a subsequent chase the car then hit a police vehicle resulting in the arrest of three 15 year olds. The woman's car was a write-off.

The woman then received a solicitor's letter asking her to "admit liability and pay compensation" after one of the officers suffered personal injuries and loss, which she said left her "deeply distressed".

The mother of two said with two jobs said her car insurance premium trebled overnight and fears she may lose her home through the case.

"The very people I called for help are now trying to claim against me," she said.

The PSNI said its officers were as entitled as the general public to make a claim and as a result insurance premiums could go up.  It said claims were taken against the Motor Insurers Bureau and not the individual victim's insurance policy.

Incredible victim of car theft would be subjected to compensation claims from police officers. Dolores Kelly

The Belfast Telegraph has reported in the past cases of officers claiming from the insurance of victims' of crime.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said there needed to be an internal process  to put an end to the "stress to victims" of such crimes.

“I find it absolutely incredible that the victim of a car theft would be subjected to compensation claims from police officers following the apprehension of the criminals responsible," she said.

“What’s worse is that the PSNI not only seems to have washed its hands of the situation, they’ve attempted to justify it by asserting that the claim would be against the Motor Insurance Bureau rather than the victim’s insurance policy. As if that makes it any better.

“No victim should wake up to a solicitor’s letter from a police officer demanding they accept liability for an accident they were not involved in after their vehicle was stolen. The PSNI should move to implement internal processes to ensure that this does not happen in future.”

Important to clarify officers are not claiming against the victim’s insurance, they are claiming against the Motor Insurers Bureau. PSNI

In a statement the PSNI said: "It is a matter for individual police officers, like any other citizens, to pursue civil claims arising from road traffic collisions in which they have been involved (whether during their working time or at some other time).

"It is important to clarify that officers are not claiming against the victim’s insurance, they are claiming against the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). Any person involved in a collision where the driver of the other vehicle was at fault and was either untraced or uninsured may pursue a claim through the MIB.

"This is a statutory organisation to provide compensation to the victims of uninsured and untraced drivers.

"All insurance companies sign up to the MIB agreements and membership is mandatory. MIB deal with all untraced or uninsured driver claims in the same way regardless of the identity of the claimant.

"By virtue of Art. 98 of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 if there is insurance relating to a vehicle involved in a collision where the driver is untraced or uninsured, that insurance company becomes the ‘Road Traffic Order Insurer’ and are obliged to deal with the claim.

"This means that no genuinely injured person, be they a member of the public or a police officer, is left in a situation where they are unable to recover compensation as a result of their injuries. Where there is no Road Traffic Order Insurer, the MIB’s own fund, made up of the membership fees of the insurers, foots the bill."

The statement continued: "It is a matter between the person who obtains insurance for the vehicle (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.

"This would depend on the precise terms of the policy of insurance between the insured and the insurer. Some insurers may treat such incidents in this way and others may not, so the victims of car crime may or may not be penalised depending on their insurer and the terms of their policy.

"The same situation would apply to for example, theft of a vehicle. Although the victim is entirely innocent and someone has stolen the vehicle their insurance premium may go up as a result of a claim under their policy - that is simply the nature of car insurance.

"In summary an officer injured by a stolen car would be entitled and may elect to bring a claim against the MIB. The MIB would appoint an Insurer as Road Traffic Order Insurer pursuant to the legislation and that Insurer will deal with the claim. It is a matter between the Insurer and the policy holder as to whether it is treated as a claim – it may indeed count as a claim (however the policy holder would most likely be claiming for the theft of their vehicle and any damage caused)."

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