Northern Ireland

Police make personal injury claim against robbery victim

Terrence Duffin
Image caption Terence Duffin's car was written off during the police chase

A man who was held at knifepoint in his home and had his car stolen has said he has been re-victimised by three personal injury claims made by police officers.

Terence Duffin's car was written off during a police chase.

He said he has now received civil claims from three police officers, even though he was not in the car.

The police said this was a private matter between the individual officers and the insurance companies involved.

Mr Duffin had just arrived home when two armed men forced themselves into his house in Newcastle, County Down, at the end of August 2016.

"They pushed me into the kitchen and proceeded to pull out carving knives," he said.

"The house was ransacked, items were stolen and they took my car."

Loss of confidence

He said police traced the car in Clough, County Antrim, and followed it to Belfast.

"It was on the Dunbar Link that the men rammed the police car and it wasn't until the Seven Mile Straight in Antrim that they were actually apprehended by police who had set up a road block."

Mr Duffin said he felt traumatised by the theft but that things were made worse when he was notified of the claims by his insurance company.

"I just couldn't believe this was happening to me," he added.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said it does not hold any information in relation to police officers making compensation claims against the owners of stolen vehicles.

"Each incident would very much depend on the individual circumstances and the insurance arrangements in place. Therefore this would be a private matter between the individual officer, like any other citizen injured by a stolen car, and the insurance company involved," he said.

"Such information is not recorded or required by police.

Image caption A spokesman from the Police Federation for Northern Ireland was keen to stress it was a matter for individual officers

"As with any collision the issue of the fault of the driver is also relevant, so for example, if an officer was held to be negligent, then other parties (even if this involved a stolen car) would direct their claims against the PSNI.

"It is important to note that the same rules apply for any individual wanting to pursue a civil claim, whether they are a police officer or member of the public."

Mr Duffin said his no-claims bonus was likely to be affected and he feared his car insurance premiums could increase as a result.

The PSNI acknowledged this may be the case.

'Negligence'

"Although the victim is entirely innocent and someone else has stolen the vehicle, their insurance may go up as a result of a claim under their policy - that is simply the nature of car insurance," a spokesperson said.

Personal injury lawyer, Jennifer Young, said this type of claim was a police officer's best option if they were hurt when on duty by an uninsured driver. She explained why they would not claim on the PSNI's policy.

"The police officers would have to show that their employers have been at fault in some way or that they've caused the accident, or that they failed to put in adequate safeguards in place to protect them when they were on duty," she said.

"In this situation, the accident was caused as a result of the negligent driving of the uninsured driver who has stolen the vehicle and so in that case a claim against the PSNI wouldn't be likely to get off the ground as there is no negligence on their part."

Mr Duffin has a new car and is now waiting to see what his next insurance bill will be.

"I will see where my no claims bonus stands when I renew in September. I just have to live with it. It's bad enough with the criminal case coming up and now having this on top of me as well," he said.

A police spokesperson said: "It is important to clarify the officers are not claiming against the victim's insurance, they are claiming against the Motor Insurers Bureau ("MIB").

"Any person involved in a collision where the driver of the other vehicle was at fault, and was either untraced or uninsured, may pursue a claim through the MIB.

"It is a matter between the person who obtains insurance for the vehicle (the "insured") and the insurance company as to whether or not in the event of their vehicle being stolen and involved in a collision, the insurance company will treat that incident as a claim under their policy.

"This would depend on the precise terms of the policy of insurance between the insured and the insurer.

"In summary, an officer injured by a stolen car would be entitled - and may elect to bring a claim - against the MIB."

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