Officers on way to work are on duty, says PSNI chief
THE PSNI Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, has stated that officers travelling to and from work are on duty after Constable Peadar Heffron, who lost a leg in a dissident bomb attack, was denied compensation because he was going to work when attacked.
Const Heffron, a Catholic, Irish speaker and captain of the PSNI GAA team, was badly injured in the dissident under-car bomb attack in Randalstown, Co Antrim in January 2010. He was travelling to work in west Belfast when the bomb exploded.
His right leg was amputated after the attack and Const Heffron now uses a wheelchair.
The 35-year-old officer failed in his claim to win industrial injury compensation because under current legislation he was judged not to be on duty when the attack happened.
His lawyers are now appealing this ruling to the social security commissioner. A hearing of his case was adjourned on Thursday to allow for further legal representations.
The case, which was initially reported on the Detail investigative website, prompted a statement from the PSNI yesterday saying that the case was a private matter for Const Heffron and it was therefore not appropriate for the police to comment at this stage.
“However, the chief constable supports the position that travelling to and from work constitutes being on duty,” the PSNI added in its statement.
A spokesman for the Police Federation, the representative body for rank and file PSNI officers, said it was a “nonsense” to in any way suggest Const Heffron was not on duty at the time of the attack. “And what kind of message does this send out to police officers who every day are under dissident threat,” he added.
SDLP and Ulster Unionist Assembly members demanded that the legislation be changed so that Const Heffron can be compensated, while Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board Gerry Kelly said he has already raised the issue with the board.
“Peadar Heffron should receive compensation as he was attacked because of the job he does. Refusing compensation on the basis of whether he was on duty or not is totally wrong. He was targeted in the first place because of his job,” he said.
The Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland of the DUP, indicated that if the matter is not resolved by the social security commissioner in Const Heffron’s favour, he would change the legislation so that he is compensated.
“It is patently clear why Const Peadar Heffron was targeted. It is the duty of a society to care for our police officers injured through their public service. If current legislation cannot meet this need then it must be reviewed,” he said.