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Insight

Helping UK victims of terrorism abroad

After the physical horror of a terrorist attack, practical realities must kick in to provide vital help – both immediate and long-term - to those, through no fault of their own, caught up in atrocities abroad.

Prior to 2012, British citizens and their families affected by attacks overseas – such as 9/11, the 2002 Bali bombings, Sharm El Sheikh and Kusadasi, Turkey in 2005 - were not eligible for financial support from the British government via the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) because they sustained their injuries outside the UK. Those caught up in US attacks only received support through the US Victims Compensation Fund (VCF).

This discrepancy meant that financial awards were made to the victims of the London 7/7 bombings in 2005 by the CICA, but British citizens injured in atrocities abroad fell beyond the scope of this financial assistance scheme. With travel insurers quick to exploit the terrorism exclusion, the practical financial reality of problems such as paying for ongoing medical and psychological support and rehabilitation became very apparent to victims.

Fieldfisher's personal injury team experienced first-hand the arduous process of trying to help victims injured abroad pre-2012. We acted for a family catastrophically injured, one fatally, in the Kusadasi minibus bombing attack in Turkey in 2005. The only option open to us on their behalf was to pursue compensation from the Turkish government, which was a slow and very stressful process for the family.

We did eventually secure some settlement for this group, but the inequality of their treatment led head of personal injury Jill Greenfield to pursue a seven-year campaign to have the law changed and for British victims of terrorism abroad to be treated the same as victims of attacks in the UK.

The introduction of the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme in 2012 now means British Citizens suffering injury as a result of atrocities abroad can claim financial compensation from the CICA up to a cap of £500,000.  For immediate help, victims should also have instant access to £3,000 each in a scheme run by the Red Cross specifically to recognize the cost and complications of suffering attack abroad.

The Act introducing the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme came about despite considerable resistance. It recognises that if you are a British tourist abroad, you are effectively a target for terrorism. It also recognizes that even when the dust eventually settles on such atrocities, the economic impact of terrorism continues.

Tariffs for victims are capped and focus on very specific criteria for each injury, meaning awards are not generous, however. But it does mean that most recently we have been able to pursue settlement by means of a much more straightforward process for two clients suffering soft tissue and psychiatric injuries following the mass shooting at the tourist resort at Port El Kantaoui, near Sousse in Tunisia, when tragically 38 people, 30 of whom were British, were killed when a gunman attacked a hotel.

While we will continue to lobby for higher settlements via the CICA, the current scheme at least provides some support to people attacked at their most vulnerable – when they are least expecting it.

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