| 4.3°C Belfast

Partner of crash death officer wins new payout rules

Unmarried partners of police officers in Northern Ireland are to be recognised in new injury benefit regulations, the Justice Minister has confirmed.

David Ford also said he had approved compensation for a woman who had previously been denied it, after her policeman partner was killed in a road crash.

A High Court judge ruled in April that Debbie Morrison was discriminated against on the grounds of her marital status.

Ms Morrison's partner of three and a half years, Constable Kevin Gorman, was one of four officers who died when their Shogun vehicle exploded in flames near Warrenpoint, Co Down, in November 2008.

They were responding to an emergency call from colleagues when the fatal crash happened.

At the time of the tragedy Ms Morrison was pregnant with the couple's second child. She had taken time off from her job as a residential social worker and was said to have been dependent on her partner's income.

Even though provisions were made for her children, and an ex-gratia payment made to her, Ms Morrison only received a small pension due to Mr Gorman's limited length of service. He had joined the PSNI just over a year before he was killed.

As the couple were not married Ms Morrison was not entitled to a Death-In-Service Award.

But following a judicial review the court ruled that she should be entitled to a survivor's award and that current rules were incompatible with her human rights.

In a further hearing yesterday to establish what relief she would be entitled to, Mr Justice Treacy was told a decision has now been taken to make an award to her.

And in a statement issued later, Mr Ford made clear he would not be appealing the outcome of the legal case.

He said: “I welcome this judgement and I have given my approval for the PSNI to make the appropriate payment to Debbie Morrison as soon as possible.

“I do not believe it is right in these circumstances to draw a distinction between the rights of a married partner and an unmarried partner.

“The judge has recognised that Debbie Morrison has not been treated in accordance with her rights.”

Mr Ford added: “I can also confirm that recognition of unmarried partners will also be included in the new Injury Benefit regulations which are currently being developed.”

Belfast Telegraph