Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

VCJD compensation scheme judgement reserved

Claire McVey
Claire McVey died from vCJD in 2000 at the age of 15

A judge has reserved his decision in an action brought by families of vCJD victims who claim the government's compensation scheme is flawed.

The government established the scheme in 2002 and set aside £67.5m for the first 250 cases, with plans to review the figure if this number was exceeded.

Annie McVey, from Devon, whose 15-year-old daughter died from vCJD, is leading a High Court challenge over it.

She says it is highly complicated and a decision not to change it was unlawful.

The compensation package was in part a no-fault lump sum and in part a discretionary scheme to acknowledge the care given to loved ones with the disease.

The vCJD Trust was set up to manage it but the scheme was complex, cost millions of pounds in legal fees and led to long delays.

'Too complicated'

In April 2006 Sir Robert Owen, chairman of the vCJD Trust, expressed his concern in an interview with the BBC, stating that the costs reflected the complexity of the Trust fund.

He added it was accepted this was not the way such a trust fund ought to be set up for the future, stating that it was "far too complicated".

His views were backed by Mrs McVey, from Kentisbury Ford, near Barnstaple, who claims the difficulties of claiming for discretionary payments compounded the anguish of the families.

The hearing has been very difficult for all of us who have brought this challenge.
Annie McVey, mother of vCJD victim

Her 15-year-old daughter Claire died from the human form of BSE in 2000.

In March 2007 the trustees of the fund proposed radical changes to the scheme which they put to the health secretary but, more than two years later in June 2009, these were turned down.

At the High Court hearing, which began on Monday, the judge heard claims that the delay of successive health secretaries to make a decision on the changes was "unreasonable", and that the rejection of a thorough overhaul of the compensation scheme was "irrational" and "unlawful".

Mrs McVey's own claim has been settled but she wants to make the process of claiming for compensation alone easier for distressed and bereaved families in future.

She said: "The hearing has been very difficult for all of us who have brought this challenge.

"The judge is seeking further information and said he would reserve judgement for at least three weeks."

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