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£16m compensation paid out

Brendan Hughes b.hughes@irishnews.com

A PANEL that awarded compensation to the family of a Real IRA man murdered by his own paramilitary group has paid out more than £16 million over the past decade.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel reviews decisions on whether victims of crimes or their families are eligible to receive compensation.

It came under scrutiny in August after it emerged that compensation was given to relatives of Real IRA man Kieran Doherty, who was shot dead in Derry three years ago.

New figures obtained by The Irish News reveal that Doherty's case has been just one of almost 6,500 considered by the panel over the past nine years.

A total of £16.47 million in compensation was awarded across more than 2,400 successful appeal cases since 2003/04.

Only 30 appeals were heard and almost £31,000 of compensation paid out in 2003/04, but this has since surged to 707 and £1.67 million in 2012/13.

The number of successful appeals has also increased year-on-year for the past four years from 324 in 2008/09.

Doherty's body was found naked and bound on the Braehead Road on the outskirts of Derry in February 2010.

His family had initially been refused any compensation but successfully appealed the decision.

However, an award of £11,000 was halved due to the victim's unspent criminal conviction in the Republic.

Doherty (31) had served a jail sentence in the Republic for robbery while a member of the Real IRA.

His family said that in the weeks before being shot by the republican dissident group his health had suffered because of harassment by MI5. Unionists and Real IRA victims expressed outrage at the awarding of compensation to Doherty's mother Christine and grandmother.

Some reports claimed the payment was up to t£200,000, but it was later clarified that the figure was £5,500 plus an undisclosed amount towards funeral costs.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the 1998 Omagh bomb, had said the families of children under 18 killed by the Real IRA bomb were paid £7,500. Figures showing the scale of compensation payouts over the years were obtained by The Irish News through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Last month (SEPT) justice minister David Ford told assembly members that a review was underway into criminal injuries compensation legislation. UUP member of Stormont's justice committee Tom Elliott said the figures suggested a "growing claims culture" in the north. "There certainly seems to be a growing claims culture, but without knowing the individual amounts which were awarded and to whom, it is difficult to make a proper judgement," he said. SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said the increasing number of appeals raised questions over whether successful claimants were being awarded enough compensation in the first instance. "I think these figures are simply indicative of a system that needs to be examined in order to provide proper compensation for the victims," he said.

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