Row over compensation to UK victims of Mumbai attacks

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Prasun Sonwalkar

London, Feb 20 (PTI) As part of the ongoing publicspending review to cut costs, the David Cameron government isreconsidering a scheme that allows compensation to Britishvictims of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and otherincidents abroad.

Eight Britons were injured in the Mumbai attacks,including Will Pike, 29, who was left paralysed and confinedto a wheelchair after being caught up in the bombings andsubsequent siege of the Taj hotel.

The previous Labour government had amended the lawthat enabled British victims of terrorism overseas to claimcompensation.

Calling the reported shift in policy ''an insult'', Piketold The Observer: "I will be in a wheelchair for the rest ofmy life, so this is isn''t a matter of choice for me; I was thevictim of an attack on my country.

The terrorists hit that hotel because it was full ofwestern tourists. I was injured because I had a Britishpassport, which turned out to be bloody worthless as soon as Igot home."

Campaigners called the reported shelving of plans tohelp Pike and 300 or so other British victims of attacksabroad over the past few years as ''outrageous''.

Changes to rules were made under the Labourgovernment, with support from various parties.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Following theMinistry of Justice''s Spending Review settlement, ministersare reviewing all victims'' services and considering where bestto allocate funds.

No final decisions have been mad. This governmentbelieves that support should be offered to the most serious,most vulnerable and most persistently targeted victims ofcrime � ensuring that those who actually need support, receiveit."

Announcing the amendment to the law before the generalelection, the then justice secretary Jack Straw said:"Terrorism is intended as a political statement and an attackon society as a whole. Therefore it is right that, as atangible expression of sympathy, society should compensate thevictims of terrorist attacks abroad."

Lord Brennan, a Labour peer who has campaignedextensively on this issue, said not paying Pike and otherscompensation "shamed" Britain.

He said: "If those injured here are paid compensation,then it should be the case that those injured abroad in thepast are not ignored.

In the midst of this grave recession, with thecampaign against terrorism continuing, to forget these peopleis simply unforgiveable treatment. This could have been anyone of us on a foreign journey." PTI PS

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