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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 12:34 GMT
Compensation payments: Are they getting it right?
Families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster have condemned a six-figure compensation payment to a policeman on duty on the day of the tragedy.
Former sergeant Martin Long, who was at Sheffield Wednesday's ground when 96 Liverpool football fans were crushed to death in 1989, is thought to have been awarded £330,000 for post-traumatic stress disorder. In the past few years, another 11 former police officers have received a total of £1.2 million.
By contrast, the families of the Hillsborough victims have been awarded payments of a few thousand pounds each.
Phil Hammond - vice-chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group - whose 14-year-old son was killed in the disaster received £3,500. He condemned the Long payment as "disgusting."
Why are these pay-outs so different? Do we need a fairer system to compensate those who have been involved in tragedies such as Hillsborough?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
To avoid controversial compensation payments the services should simply allow their people to retire early on a full pension due to medical reasons. If during the period between their early retirement and age 65 they resume work their pension should be reduced accordingly.
Forget the current case. Let's solve the problem by ensuring that public service workers (police, fire, paramedic etc) all sign a waiver with their contract of employment accepting the possibility of suffering job related stress/ shock/ distress.
There is a clear difference, at least to anyone who takes the trouble to consider it, between cases where injury occurs due to an incident that might reasonably be expected to be a possibility and where injury occurs against all reasonable expectation. Lisa Potts was teaching a class of children and could not reasonably expect to be attacked by a madman while pursuing that activity and, in fairness should expect a relatively high level of compensation. Soldiers suffering from exposure to depleted uranium, if harmful effects are proven, should expect compensation. However, soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from combat should not. For that matter, neither should former sergeant Martin Long. He was a policeman and he should have expected that his choice of career would expose him to unpleasant situations.
I was a member of the St John Ambulance brigade at the time of the Hillsborough disaster but not in that area and not involved. I remember reading about the St John people on duty that day which included cadets, children who bravely and calmly went about around giving comfort to the injured and seeing the dead laid out. They received counselling afterwards but what compensation could they now claim.
He may have suffered trauma as part of his job, however part of his job description is to deal with these types of situations. We will soon be having soldiers claiming post-traumatic stress after a battle.
It is a distressing subject both to those who lost loved ones and those who suffered as a result of being there and the trauma. The army goes through the same sort of thing when coming back from war-zones. But people die and are killed every day - especially on the roads - but do their families get a penny? Life cannot be bought - it is far too precious to put a sum on anyone's life.
Alex, NZ (ex-pat)
Heaven help you if you are a victim of a crime or accident in this country! Those responsible for your predicament will be treated with compassion and understanding by the courts, others will be well compensated and you will be just another sad tabloid story.
Imagine a surgeon claiming compensation for being exposed to too much blood! He'd be laughed out of any court.
I'm sorry, but I don't see why anyone should get compensation for tragedies like this and others that have occurred. Life is not a series of cash payouts to compensate for the fact that it is less-than-perfect.
My father's generation did not get 'compensated' for what they saw when fighting in the Second World War, and nor should they. Policemen take on the job knowing the kind of things they may have to witness, as do soldiers,
paramedics, doctors and others. Traumatic events are part of the job.
So who can we rely on to handle these tricky situations if the policemen go all post-traumatic stressed on us? The Boy Scouts? The Women's Institute? The RSPCA? The whole affair is nothing but a scam.
Why are people criticising a man who risked his own life to help victims of the Hillsborough tragedy?
His payment may seem large but he was injured at work and this will replace his lost earnings that he would have received if he could still work and pay for any psychiatric help he may need. That is how compensation works. Whilst money cannot make up for a death, money can help survivors live as normal a life as possible. I agree that Lisa Potts should get a much higher sum.
Let's do away with the compensation culture altogether, apart from cases where the money is needed to live, such as quadraplegics.
Ppeople who lose loved ones through illness - e.g. cancer, heart failure do not get compensation, yet it would be ridiculous to assume they are suffering less.
The worst aspect of the compensation culture is the fact that those who least deserve compensation seem to get the most money - six figure sums if something unpleasant happens at work, peanuts for bereavement.
It seems to me that the only people who win are the con artists who overstate their case, and the lawyers.
I am sorry, but I find it ridiculous that tribunals/courts even consider paying compensation for 'stress' cases from the services. Are these people not aware of the situations they are going to be placed in when they join. Are these not the people, we as the general public, are called to rely upon in a crisis? Is it any wonder that faith in the Police is faultering to such a degree?
Compared to similar compensation claims in other jobs (for RSI, tripping up on carpets etc..) £330,000 seems quite low. Why should policeman have to deal with any more than the rest of us? Society forces them to see the most atrocious things everyday and then gets annoyed when some of them can't take it. A little compassion wouldn't go amiss here.
Firstly, the victims of Hillsborough have
never demanded or pleaded for compensation
they have only ever wanted JUSTICE,
in an exceptionally graceful and patient manner
considering what happened.
This is another kick in their teeth again.
Police incompetence caused this disaster.
In its defence over the years, the whole UK ruling elite mobilised
the media and the judiciary to demonise the people of Liverpool
to avoid holding its police force to account.
On weighing up the results of his
compensation payout in relation to the
injustice the actual victims and their families received,
'sensitive' Sgt. Long may find himself too
distressed to accept, I know I would be!
If a police officer gets compensation for post-traumatic stress, why shouldn't all the fans who were involved in and survived the disaster also claim similar compensation?
Interesting how more people are outraged when a policeman gets compensation, yet it has been announced that a convicted terrorist is to be compensated because he was hurt when he tried to escape from prison. During this escape attempt a prison office was shot, but no one thinks it is wrong for him to get money. People are correct, the priorities are wrong.
Bob Mazursky, USA
I wouldn't have a problem with the policeman getting a 6 figure sum (loss of earnings I suppose) as long as the victims' relatives had received even more. At least the policeman is still alive.
But what really irritates me is that this policeman whilst mentally scarred is probably physically unscathed from the incident. How come he gets 6 times what Lisa Potts got?? She has limited use of her arm following the attack on her. Her view on this compensation payment is probably unprintable.
Maybe the reason the policeman's compensation was higher is because technically speaking he was injured in the workplace and that means he gets a larger insurance payout.
The really disgusting thing is that this police officer has already retired early and will be getting a pension from the bankrupt police pension scheme (which WE are bankrolling) plus this compensation (which WE are also bankrolling), no doubt obtained at no expense to him by his union, the Police Federation.
The victims, on the other hand, will have had no such assistance even though the police were employed at Hillsborough to maintain public order and safety.
If this policeman has any dignity he hands the money over to the family of the victims.
The biggest wave of compensation claims from the police force is yet to come: thousands of policemen claiming compensation for damaged eyesight due to staring at CCTV monitors instead of patrolling the streets and preventing disasters such as the Sheffield Wednesday one.
Andy Millward, UK
The payouts are different because the policeman suffered trauma as a direct result of his job. A reasonable analogy would be that of a miner whose health is affected by the breathing of coal dust, 'black lung', etc. I doubt that Phil Hammond, who is quoted in the main news article, would begrudge such miners a large payout, so why does he complain now?
This suggests to me that Mr Hammond does not see the police as ordinary people, due the same employment conditions as the rest of us.
The resilience of the human spirit and the obligation to overcome tragic circumstances, has carried people, communities and nations through difficult times. However, with the legal system now more liberal with rewarding mental anguish claims, we will see less of this resilience and fortitude in the future.
Compensation for mental anguish will create a moral hazard for society: The need to overcome adversity versus the desire for large amounts of money.
Just like the USA, compensation culture is massive here now. There is no easy way of definingthe loss of someone in terms of money or stress.
The payout of £330,000 to Sergeant Martin Long is a disgrace and an insult to the relatives of those who died. Sergeant Long was doing his job, I watched the scenes at Hillsborough on television. What's to stop thousands of others who also saw it claiming compensation for the trauma it caused them? I don't think they would do something so immoral. If Sergeant Long has any decency he will give that money to the families of the bereaved.
The payments are so different because when an ordinary person suffers, s/he usually doesn't have the resources to pursue matters further than one court decision. Policemen, on the other hand, have the backing of a system that's scared that, unless the compensation is on par with "Who Want to be a Millionaire" prizes, no one will want to join any more.
Ted Tooey, England
I think that the compensation system should be looked at. Lisa Potts only got £49,000 for her injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. She only got £750 for the loss of the use of one hand.
In my opinion, the families of the victims should get every penny possible and tough to the police officer.
The payouts given these days are ridiculous. Our society is becoming more and more of a 'compensation culture' where people are out to get anything they can. Can anyone honestly say that stress is worth more than the loss of a child?
The real and only sufferers in this whole mess are the families who lost loved ones during the fateful event.
I can say this. You must keep fighting what appears to be an attempt by the authorities to try and sweep it under the carpet and hope they can get away with it.
You'll never walk alone!
02 Mar 01 | UK
Hillsborough police payout condemned
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