Belfast Telegraph

Victims commissioner: I 'totally agree' on no equivalence between perpetrator and victim

Judith Thompson
Judith Thompson

By Eimear McGovern

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors has said she 'totally agrees' with a statement made by a DUP MP that there is no equivalence between perpetrators and victims.

Judith Thompson said in a statement that the definition of a victim was laid down by parliament and that the commission has worked within the legislation since its inception.

It's follows calls from the MP for south Belfast Emma Little Pengelly for the definition of a victim to be changed, describing the current status in legislation as 'immoral'.

"That is why we are seeking a new United Kingdom wide definition which would exclude terrorists injured by their actions," she said.

In July, victims' groups condemned a suggestion that a pension for people severely injured during the Troubles could also be available to those who staged attacks.

The NIO has since confirmed that the pension will not be given to terrorists.

The Government is due to report on the matter in October.

In July, the deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds told the House of Commons there was a lack of confidence in the Victims Commissioner, while later that month, Ms Little Pengelly wrote to Judith Thompson asking her to 'change course'.

In a statement on Tuesday, Judith Thompson said there is no moral equivalence between those who have caused harm and those who have suffered harm.

She added the definition of a victim has always been "uncomfortable and contested" - but the fact that it exists has allowed for a strategy to be created by government and the provision of services for victims and funded groups.

"In presenting her Victims and Survivors Pensions Arrangement advice as requested by the Secretary of State, the Commissioner and her office followed the terms of reference agreed [...]. At no point did the Commissioner address eligibility and nor was she expected to."

Ms Little Pengelly said that although the Commissioner operates under a definition, this does not mean she can not recommend legislative change.

"This is particularly the case for the special pension proposal that would require new legislative criteria.  The fact she has not done so has disappointed and dismayed many innocent victims."

The DUP MP went on to say the Commissioner has lost the confidence of a large swathe of the people her office is meant to represent and said it was now impossible for her to carry out her role. 

She called for the Secretary of State to appoint a replacement Commissioner who can command the confidence of innocent victims when Judith Thompson's tenure runs out at the end of the month.

In response, Ms Thompson said the doors of the Commission is for everyone who has experienced harm.

"The work towards continuing peace and reconciliation has to be uncomfortable for everyone, even the Commission, but the prize has to be worth it," she said.

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