British victims of terrorism win over £1million from Turkish Government
A family of six left seriously injured after the bombing of a holiday resort in Turkey have been awarded over £1 million in financial support by the Turkish authorities. This follows a four year campaign which has seen the UK Government fail to help British citizens injured by terrorist attacks abroad.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme which compensates victims of terrorism in the UK does not extend to cover citizens caught up in terrorist attacks abroad, unlike schemes in many other European countries. Despite calls for changes to the scheme, including the tabling of a Private Members Bill in the House of Lords, seriously injured victims of terrorist attacks abroad have been left with little or no financial support.
On 16th July 2005, the family from Durham were on their way to the beach whilst on holiday in Turkey when they became the targets of a terrorist bomber. The minibus in which they were travelling had a bomb placed beneath the seats. It is thought that the terrorist had got off the bus, leaving the bomb behind.
The bomb exploded and carnage ensued. Helyn Bennett was killed. Her fiancé, Stephen Stables, together with other members of the family, including Mickey Aspinall, Toni Punshon, Stephen Stables and two of the family’s children were seriously injured. Because the bombs were beneath the seats, many of the injuries were to the legs and they also suffered burns, head injuries, deafness and loss of sight. All surviving members of the family were placed in intensive care and required surgery.
The case had been referred to Jill Greenfield, Partner in our Personal Injury claims department, by another law firm. Jill was already involved in a campaign to try to force the British Government to bring in a scheme to help British Victims of Terrorism Abroad; something that the British Government have still to do.
It was initially difficult to see what, apart from the campaign, could be done to help the family, however there was then a breakthrough and the possibility of a claim against the Turkish Authorities, through the discovery of a little known scheme. It offered potentially little to the family but it was felt worthwhile. A long and difficult legal battle ensued with the Turkish Authorities. Initial awards of a few thousand pounds were rejected and an appeal was launched in Turkey. Turkish lawyers were retained and Mark Bowman, Associate in the Personal Injury department, assisted Jill with the case.
The family have finally been awarded £1,099,531.94 GBP between them in compensation, giving much needed financial security, although this is currently under appeal. We understand that this is the first case where a British victim of terrorism abroad has successfully, through litigation, pursued a claim for financial support against a foreign Government.
Jill Greenfield comments:
“This is a unique case. The initial idea to pursue the claim against the Turkish Government was a long shot and there were very many procedural hurdles along the way. We worked with a Turkish law firm to help. This had not been done before and we knew it would be complicated litigation. The UK Government had done little to help this family except offer sympathy. Sympathy doesn’t pay the bills. It is extremely rewarding to know that the family will now not have to worry about how to pay their bills and mortgages, thanks to the Turkish Government.”
Speaking on behalf of her family Sharon Holden said:
“It has been a long fight to gain compensation for the injuries and trauma suffered by my family and the death of my daughter, Helyn. It is the Turkish authorities, not the UK Government that have finally given us the financial support we need.”
Axa Legal Expense Insurers funded the action.
This case has received national and international press coverage, including an article on the BBC website.