PSNI officer refused compensation for bomb injuries

 Injured PSNI officer Peadar Heffron

Injured PSNI officer Peadar Heffron

BY BARRY McCAFFREY

A Catholic policeman who lost a leg in a dissident bomb attack has been refused industrial injury compensation because the law rules he was not on duty at the time of the attack.

Peadar Heffron was badly injured when a booby-trap bomb exploded underneath his car as he travelled to work as a policeman in west Belfast in January 2010.

The 35 year-old, who had been a police officer for 10 years, had a leg amputated as a result of the explosion and now uses a wheelchair.

Constable Heffron, who was the captain of the PSNI’s GAA team, has never been able to return to work.

However the 35 year-old has now been informed that, despite being maimed for life, he is not entitled to industrial injury compensation.

Lawyers acting for Constable Heffron made an appeal against the decision to the Social Security Commissioner at a special hearing in Belfast on Thursday.

“There is an issue as to whether or not the compensation is payable in circumstances where the person concerned was on his way to work and therefore was technically on duty,” said a source close to the case.

“The commissioner has indicated that he is very sympathetic to Peadar’s situation, but the regulations do not appear to be as sympathetic to a young man who has sacrificed so much for his community.”

The case has been adjourned for further legal representations.

Highlighting the serious potential financial loss to the injured officer, the source said:

“The issue is of considerable financial significance to Constable Heffron.

“It appears that he may be compelled to retire from PSNI because of his horrific injuries.

“The question is will his entitlement to Industrial Injury Benefit carry on into his retirement?"

Police Federation chairman Terry Spence and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt

Police Federation chairman Terry Spence and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt

Police Federation chairman Terry Spence has branded the decision to refuse compensation to the injured officer as an “insult.”

“Our view on it is quite simple,” he said.

“We are extremely concerned that the Industrial Injuries Tribunal seem unable to accept that Constable Peadar Heffron was injured as a direct result of his employment.

“The fact that he was driving to work at the time he was seriously injured in that bomb explosion clearly demonstrates that he was injured on duty and falls within the regulations of injury on duty as far as the PSNI is concerned.

“From a Police Federation perspective we really have to ask the question from the industrial tribunal as to what sort of signal this sends to the young men and women of the Police Service of Northern Ireland who put their lives on the line every single day of the week and have been attacked in their homes both on and off duty.

“I think it’s appalling.

“I know Peadar. I’ve had many conversations with him. I think it’s an insult.

“We would ask the Industrial Injuries Tribunal to revisit this decision, which is quite obviously unjust and patently unfair.”

Calling for an immediate change in the legislation to ensure that Constable Heffron is not deprived of proper compensation, Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said:

“Peadar Heffron was attacked specifically because he came from a certain background.”

“The powers that be need to show some compassion and commonsense.

“This attack was meant to kill this brave police officer.

“The authorities should not compound the pain and suffering that the terrorists have already caused to this young man and his family.”