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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Insurers' 97m Yarl's Wood claim
Yarl's Wood on fire
The police will "vigorously resist" the claim
Insurers for the company which runs Yarl's Wood asylum centre have lodged a claim for almost 97m with Bedfordshire Police Authority.

A Lloyds syndicate, acting for Group 4, has more than doubled the 40m it initially said it would seek after the fire in February.

The claim for 96,638,000 is being made under the 1886 Riot Damages Act, by which police can be held liable for damage caused during civil disturbances.

The chairman of the Bedfordshire Police Authority Adrian Heffernan has previously promised: "Any claim made against the authority under the Riot Damages Act is totally outrageous and will be vigorously resisted."

'Unacceptable policy'

Much of the asylum centre was destroyed in the fire on 14 February.

The remainder closed temporarily at the weekend after Group 4 was unable to renew its insurance.

Conservative MP Alistair Burt, who represents north-east Bedfordshire, said: "Our national policy on asylum detention and removals is currently in the hands of an insurance syndicate at Lloyd's.

"This is unacceptable and I am very, very angry.

"It's a complete and utter nonsense that a local police force can be held responsible in these circumstances."

'Statutory responsibility'

Peter May, claims manager for the insurers DJ Pye Syndicate 692, said the sum was only an estimate as loss adjusters Capita McLarens cannot access the site, still classified by police as a crime scene.

Mr May said: "The Act does not deal with blame, it deals with statutory responsibility.

"It should not be confused with pointing the finger at the police as being to blame for the incident.

"And I've no reason to believe that Group 4, in any way they ran the detention centre, were to blame."

A spokeswoman for Group 4 said that the claim was "an accurate estimate of the damage and loss of earnings".

Bedfordshire Police Authority said on Wednesday it had received the claim and its lawyers would be examining it.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | England
Yarl's Wood shut down
23 Feb 02 | England
Police resist 'riot' damages claim
17 Feb 02 | England
Asylum centre damage assessed
15 Feb 02 | England
Inquiry into riot at asylum centre
15 Feb 02 | England
Picture gallery: Asylum fire
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