Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: No-one should profit from wrong-doing

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson
Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson

Editor's Viewpoint

The pained question of how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, most specifically how to compensate those injured by terrorism, has been as long-running as the peace process itself.

And this issue has been accompanied by controversy every step of the way. The Eames-Bradley blueprint for dealing with the past and how to establish a truth recovery process was seen as a possible solution but failed because it suggested that everyone injured in the Troubles should be given the same payment.

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson was criticised this summer when she proposed that pensions should be paid in line with the Victims and Survivors (NI) Order 2006 which defines a victim of the Troubles and makes no distinction between paramilitaries and innocent victims.

She said former paramilitaries should be eligible to apply. Victims groups immediately denounced her proposal.

Now the Government is understood to be bringing forward proposals that paramilitaries injured while committing terror attacks should not receive a Troubles pension. That is seen as their way of ensuring that support is only offered to those injured through no fault of their own.

This line of reasoning follows the well established legal principle that no one should profit from their own wrong-doing.

But unfortunately it leaves a loophole. What happens to terrorists who are injured in an incident of their own making but are never convicted of that offence for one reason or another.

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That runs against the common sense approach that a perpetrator cannot also be a victim. Why should someone injured by their own bomb or shot and injured in the commission of a crime against the security forces, for example, be eligible for a pension merely because they were not identified at the time or brought to justice for their actions.

The new proposals, which have to be implemented by the end of May next year, will go out for public consultation shortly and no doubt the flaws in them will be well highlighted by victims groups.

It will be up to Northern Ireland MPs and members of the House of Lords to ensure that this issue is corrected before the proposals become law.

We must avoid penalising genuine victims, injured through no fault of their own, by further wrangling on the issue of pensions. They have waited too long already for deserved recompense.

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