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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK
SAS hero's partner to sue MoD
Brad Tinnion died in action
Brad Tinnion's partner is fighting for recognition
The partner of a soldier who was killed rescuing British hostages in Sierra Leone may sue the Ministry of Defence.

Anna Homsi was refused an 18,000-a-year war pension because she had not lived with Brad Tinnion six months before he joined the Armed Forces.

...when you pay the ultimate price, you rightly expect that those close to you will be treated properly

Paul Keetch, Lib Dem defence spokesman
But the couple, who were not married, had lived together for seven years and Miss Homsi was pregnant with their daughter, Georgia, when Mr Tinnion died in action last year.

The Ministry of Defence has said it is bound by regulations but is considering a number of options to help the 30-year-old.

But calls are mounting for the outdated rules to be changed, spearheaded by Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Paul Keetch.

Miss Homsi argues that she needs the pension to help bring up her eight-month-old daughter.

Posthumous honour

Bombardier Tinnion was posthumously honoured for his role in helping rescue 11 soldiers held hostage by the West Side Boys gang in September.

Miss Homsi's solicitor Tom Reah told the BBC that his client was "deeply frustrated and insulted" by the MoD's treatment.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Reah said that Miss Homsi may sue under the Human Rights Act.

"They were living together all those years basically as man and wife," he said.

He said the government had pledged to examine the issue of war pension entitlement, but if it could not bring changes then Miss Homsi would fight in the courts.

The MoD said regulations stated that the couple had to have lived together for at least six months before he joined the Armed Forces for Miss Homsi to qualify for the pension.

A MoD spokesman said that public sector pension schemes tended not to recognise unmarried partners but the Armed Forces had some limited flexibility.

"A review involving all three services is currently at a very early stage and is examining the many and complex issues involved which will need to reflect the wider views of society", he said.

He added that it might take some time and would not include retrospective payments.

Equal rights

Mr Keetch, Lib Dem MP for Hereford, has taken up the case branding the situation a "disgrace".

Lib Dem defence spokesman Paul Keetch
Paul Keetch: Time to change pension rules
He is calling on the government to change the rules on pension entitlement for the Armed Forces as soon as possible so that married and unmarried couples benefit alike.

"When you are killed, when you pay the ultimate price, you rightly expect that those close to you will be treated properly," he told the BBC.

And he said it was an irony that all only last week the government had allowed unmarried dependents of MPs to receive benefits but did not extend the same rights for dependents of those who were prepared to risk their lives in the Armed Forces.

"Mr Tinnion was praised by everybody for giving his life for his country, yet now his country is not prepared to look after his partner and his daughter in a way most people would find acceptable."

He said change had to come at ministerial level and he hoped the government would respond to the "mood of the nation" before Miss Homsi was forced to seek compensation.

"They need to accept the reality of life in the 21st century," he said.

Miss Homsi, who lives near the SAS headquarters in Hereford, told the Mirror newspaper that she just wanted respect for her loss.

According to the paper, she is only entitled to a 2,000 a year grant from the War Pensions Agency for Georgia until she is 17 as well as income support.

And it says that she also got a 20,000 death-in-service payment.

The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Officials say they are now trying to look at other options"
Bruce George, Chairman of Defence Committee
"This deserving case should be looked at again"
Anna Homsi's solicitor Tom Reah
"The legal points tie into the Human Rights Act 1998"
See also:

12 Nov 00 | Business
War Pensions: Are you eligible?
07 Nov 00 | Talking Politics
Grey army on the march
12 Nov 00 | Business
New benefits for British PoWs
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