In the Media

UK victims told 'sue terrorists'

PUBLISHED March 14, 2006

British victims of terrorism abroad have been advised by the government to sue the perpetrators of the attacks, the BBC has revealed.

The Department for Work and Pensions has written to families, saying they should "seek compensation" from their attackers, BBC Real Story reported.

Since the 11 September attacks, 45 Britons have died and many more injured in attacks overseas.

But only victims injured on UK soil are eligible for compensation.

'Beggars belief'

Trevor Lakin, whose 28-year-old son Jeremy was killed in the 2005 Sharm al-Sheikh bombing in Egypt, branded the advice "stupid".

"The government said to sue the perpetrators, but, you know, you just can't go off and sue suicide bombers, can you? It's just stupid.

"Who on earth ever put pen to paper in that respect beggars belief really."

Mr Lakin has taken up the cause of several families whose relatives have been injured, killed or affected by terrorism abroad and are struggling to cope financially.

He said the Salvation Army had paid for a victim's funeral because the family "literally did not have the funds".

"People are running into debt.

"You've got enough problems, you're in trauma, your body's in a shell, you're not thinking and all you know is that you've got money going out and out and out, and nothing coming in."

In addition to victims and their relatives not being eligible for support from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, many insurance companies also have exclusion payments that mean they are not entitled to a payout in the event of a terrorist atrocity.

Home Office minister Fiona McTaggart told Real Story: "The person who is responsible for this dreadful and criminal act is the criminal, it isn't the state in which it occurs or the British state."

Toni Punshon, her partner Mickey Aspinall and their family were in a minibus blown up by a suicide bomber in the Turkish resort of Kusadasi in July 2005.

Her niece, Helyn Bennett, 21, was killed in the explosion, while the rest of the family sustained serious injuries, including a fractured skull, punctured lungs and shrapnel damage.

Mr Aspinall's leg had to be rebuilt using part of his stomach and is held together by a metal brace.

In the last eight months, the family has made more than 200 hospital visits and paid nearly ?2,000 in medical expenses.

"We don't even get our prescriptions paid for. The dressings for my leg - which has to be dressed every day - I have to pay for those dressings.

"We've got to pay for all our medication," said Mr Aspinall.

Unable to work since the attack, they have now spent their life savings and are relying on financial goodwill from friends, family and employers.