Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Office


  This paper provides information on the incidence of and Government response to relocation by residents of Northern Ireland following intimidation.


  The offence of intimidation is statutorily defined in section 7 of the Consipiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 and in section 1, of the Protection of the Person and Property Act (Northern Ireland) 1969. The latter states that "a person shall be guilty of an offence if he unlawfully causes, by force, threats or menaces, or in any way whatsoever, any person—

    —  to leave any place where that other person is for the time being resident or in occupation, or

    —  to leave his place of employment, or

    —  to terminate the services of employment of any person, or

    —  to do or refrain from doing any act.

  This definition is quite narrow and requires strict criteria to be fulfilled in order for an offence to be committed.

  The Police have advised that there were 349 recorded offences of intimidation in the financial year 1997-98, 491 in 1998-99 and 469 in 1999-2000. These do not necessarily relate to paramilitary or terrorist activity and the background to the offence may be purely criminal—for example, a worker being intimidated in the workplace because they would not join a union or take part in a picket.

Incidence of relocation by residents following intimidation

  Throughout the last 30 years in Northern Ireland, relocation by residents following intimidation has been a feature of life in areas of Northern Ireland. This has increased or decreased depending on the security and political situation.

  Figures for the last three financial years are set out in the table below (NIHE figures). These figures relating to cases known to NIHE and would, for example, include individuals who may have left Northern Ireland as a result of intimidation without seeking NIHE assistance before doing so.
1997-981998-99 1999-2000
Belfast Area15762 117
Northern Ireland330 106190

  During the summer of this year, feuding between rival loyalists and paramilitary organisations in the Shankill area led to a very significant increase in relocation of households as a result of intimidation. Details are given below.

Northern Ireland Office responsibilities

  The Northern Ireland Office is responsible for the Compensation Agency, which deals with payments for compensation in respect of personal injury or damage as a result of intimidation. Details of the schemes are set out below.

  The Northern Ireland Office is also responsible for the Key Persons Protection Scheme and assists in funding a project known as Base 2. Details of these are set out below.

Devolved administration responsibilities

  Two Departments in Northern Ireland are responsible for agencies which work directly to meet the needs of those displaced through intimidation. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety is responsible for social services delivered by the health trusts in Northern Ireland, while the Department of Social Development is responsible for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Social Security Agency. Details of the responses of these agencies are set out below.

Government response: general

  In addition to action by the security forces and attempts to bring to justice those responsible for intimidation, a number of agencies operate schemes specifically intended to assist those forced to leave their homes.

  Responsibility for dealing with the needs of those displaced from their homes as a result of intimidation is shared between the NIO and the devolved administration. Each agency or Department responds to the needs of those displaced in accordance with its statutory responsiblities—for example the Northern Ireland Housing Executive attempts to rehouse those made homeless by intimidation, social services staff deal with consequential family and other problems, the Compensation Agency considers claims for loss as a result of injury or damage.

Loyalist feud response

  The security forces responded to the loyalist feud by providing an increased level of patrolling to deter intimidation. This was welcomed by political representatives on both sides of the loyalist dispute, and acknowledged by them as essential to enable discussions to resolve the dispute to begin. Discussions have taken place between the leaderships of the two paramilitary organisations concerned, and there are signs that the dispute may shortly be resolved.

  The Secretary of State visited the Shankill area on 25 October to meet displaced residents to hear their concerns. A number of these related to matters for which the devolved administration is responsible, and these were relayed to the Northern Ireland Ministers concerned, Bairbre de Brun and Maurice Morrow.

  Since July 2000, 253 households have sought help from the NIHE in the Shankill area. Since 30 October 43 households in the Tigers Bay/Mount Vernon have presented to the Housing Executive as homeless and are seeking permanent accommodation. From 3 November, seven households within the Newtonabbey area have asked for assistance. Over the same period the Social Security Agency has received 237 applications for social fund assistance as a consequence of the feud, and made 178 payments totalling £68,281.

  Most of those seeking help were Northern Ireland Housing Executive tenants, all of whom have asked for permanent re-housing, although many were able to find their own temporary accommodation. However 12 owner-occupiers (one later withdrawn) have also claimed that they have been intimidated, and asked the Housing Executive to invoke the Scheme for Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings (SPED) scheme. This scheme allows the Housing Executive to buy such houses at market value, provided the RUC Chief Constable issues a certificate confirming the intimidation. The houses bought by the Housing Executive will eventually be re-sold.

  During the period July-November 2000, the Agency saw 74 claims in respect of private dwellings and 13 claims in respect of commercial premises following damage which it is claimed was a result of the Loyalist feud. The Agency has appointed loss adjusters to deal with all of these cases. A number of reports have been received in respect of 44 of the private dwellings and in respect of seven of the commercial claims. All of these are currently being processed. The Agency is in contact with applicants' solicitors in the other cases and has also provided advice and assistance to community workers in the Shankill area in order to assist applicants in preparing their applications.


  A person intimidated out of their home by paramilitary action may, depending on individual circumstances, be eligible to claim compensation under one or both statutory compensation schemes being administered, on behalf of the Secretary of State, by the Compensation Agency:

    —  the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme provides compensation for pain, suffering, financial loss and loss of amenity by the victims of violent crime, including terrorist crime, in Northern Ireland. The governing legislation is the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998; and

    —  the Criminal Damage Compensation Scheme provides compensation for malicious damage to property in Northern Ireland caused by terrorism or unlawful assemblies of three or more people, and for malicious damage to agricultural property. The governing legislation is the Criminal Damage (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977.

Claims under the Criminal Injuries Scheme

  The criminal injury legislation makes provision for the award of compensation to eligible applicants and provides a right of appeal to the Court against the decision of the Agency. Most applicants are assisted by their solicitor for whom reasonable costs and expenses are paid by the Agency in a successful claim.

  For a claim to succeed, the applicant must have suffered a criminal injury directly attributable to a violent offence—injury includes any impairment of a person's physical or mental condition. Medical reports are provided to the Agency and, if required, additional reports are commissioned in order to establish the degree of injury suffered and determine the quantum of the award.

  In physical injury cases, if the amount of compensation payable is less than £1,000 no compensation is payble. In non-physical injury cases the injury must:

    —  amount to a serious and disabling mental disorder;

    —  be sustained by virtue of being present when the act was committed; and

    —  the amount of compensation payable must be at least £2,500 otherwise compensation is not payable.

  Whilst each claim for compensation is assessed on its own merits, past experience and case law would indicate that claims by applicants who have a non-physical injury as a result of intimidation rarely meet all three of the eligibility criteria set out above.

  The legislation precludes the payment of compensation to a person convicted of a terrorist offence at any time. Claims may also be denied due to the applicant's failure to, for example, comply with the requirement to report the incident to the police within specified time limits or to assist the police in their inquiries. The legislation requires that all the relevant circumstances of the case are taken into account in assessing the amount of compensation payable. Thus, provocative or negligent behaviour by the applicant, or criminal convictions which are indicative of the applicant's character and way of life, may result in a reduction in the amount of compensation awarded—in extreme cases the compensation award may be extinguished.

Claims under the Criminal Damage Scheme

  The criminal damage legislation provides a right to claim compensation for loss suffered as a result of malicious or wanton damage to agricutural property and, in the case of other property, as a result of damage caused by an unlawful assembly of three or more persons or by terrorist acts.

  For compensation to be paid under the scheme, there must be physical damage to property. Anyone who has an interest in the property which has been damaged and who suffers a loss of more than £200 because of that damage may apply for compensation. In the case of a damaged home, the applicant may be the owner or landlord, but could also be the tenant if responsible for carrying out repairs under the terms of the lease. The legislation provides for the right of appeal to the County Court against the decision of the Agency.

  Compensation may be paid for the cost of repairs or re-instatement or reduction in market value of property; damage to stock, contents and fixtures and fittings; consequential loss (eg loss of profits, rental of alternative accommodation); and damage to vehicles.

  Compensation is not paid in respect of any damage to, destruction or theft of coins, bank notes, foreign currency, postal orders, money orders or postage stamps; any articles of personal adornment, including watches and jewellery unless kept by the owner as part of stock in trade; or property taken from a damaged vehicle or building except in certain circumstances, eg if the property was stolen from a damaged building in the course of a riot.

  Where domestic property and contents are covered by insurance, the person should make a claim on the relevant insurance company as well as the Compensation Agency. Normally the insurance company makes payment to the person based on the insurance cover provided and the compensation awards paid to the insurers by assignment.

  All participants must ensure that a "Notice of Intention to Claim Compensation" form is completed and sent to the Compensation Agency, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and any other interested parties within 10 days of the incident, and subsequently submit an application form to the Compensation Agency within four months of serving the Notice of Intention.

  Where there is alleged terrorist involvement in the incident, the applicant may apply to the RUC for the issue of a Chief Constable's Certificate (CCC) to certify same. Where a CCC is issued, the underlying liability of the Secretary of State to pay compensation is accepted by the Agency. Where a CCC is refused, the applicant must prove that the loss was as a result of damage caused by an unlawful assembly of three or more persons.

  In determining whether compensation will be paid and, if so, what amount, the Secretary of State will, for example, take into account any failure by the applicant to take all reasonable precautions to reduce or avoid the loss; and any provocative or negligent behaviour which contributed directly or indirectly to the loss or which increased the chances of it being sustained.

  Where liability has been accepted, other considerations may result in the claim being denied, for example:

    —  where the loss can be recovered under other statutory provision or common law;

    —  where the applicant planned, assisted in or actively and willingly facilitated the act which resulted in the damage (or looting); and

    —  where the applicant was at any time a member of an illegal association or was engaged in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

  The Compensation Agency is not involved in issues relating to the housing re-housing of persons intimidated from their homes—housing being devolved to the Assembly with responsibility resting with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). The NIHE operates SPED (Scheme for Purchase of Evactuated Dwellings) under which the NIHE may purchase, at market value, the home of an owner occupier who has been intimidated from their home. The Agency advises applicants of this scheme when appropriate.


  The Key Persons Protection Scheme provides physical protection measures, at public expense, at the homes (and occasionally the workplace) of certain categories of individuals, where the Secretary of State receives advice from the Chief Constable that there is a serious or significant threat against the individual concerned. The scheme is non-statutory, and is designed to protect from attack individuals in certain categories of jobs or occupations (including for example elected public representatives, members of the judiciary and police officers) whose death or injury could damage or seriously undermine:

    (a)  the democratic framework of Government in Northern Ireland;

    (b)  the effective administration of Government and/or the criminal justice system; or

    (c)  the maintenance of law and order.

  These arrangements cannot therefore protect everyone who is considered to be under some degree of threat nor is this their purpose. A judgement has to be made about the candidacy of any person applying to the Scheme, taking into account the Scheme's purpose, the level of threat (if any) against the person, and their individual circumstances. In this latter context, the person's job or occupation will be an important factor. In addition, there must be security advice from the Chief Constable that, in his professional judgement, the person concerned is under serious or significant threat.

  In making the assessment of the threat, the Chief Constable will take into account all relevant information and intelligence at his disposal, including whether the person has been or continues to be subject to paramilitary intimidation or violence.

  Once admitted to the Scheme, NIO officials will arrange for a range of protective measures to be installed at the person's home. Should the individual subsequently move house, for whatever reason, a fresh assessment of threat will be obtained covering the new address, and measures will be installed there also if the threat warrants it.


  The NIO currently provides funding to the Base 2 Project. Base 2 provide a crisis intervention service for individuals and families placed under paramilitary threat in Northern Ireland. They have been awarded a grant of £50,750 from the Core Funding for Victims/Survivors Groups Grants Scheme, which is administered by the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust on behalf of the Victims Liaison Unit.


Inter-agency group

  An inter-agency group called the Displaced Families Inter-Agency Group was initially set up in 1997, in response to the intimidation that occurred in North Belfast at that time. The purpose of the group was to co-ordinate the response from the statutory agencies to the events unfolding then. It is chaired by the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust and is made up of a variety of local community groups and statutory bodies. In September this year the group, which now meets fortnightly, extended its remit to include the greater Shankill area and is focusing on:

    (i)  the speed at which compensation claims are deciced by the NIO;

    (ii)  the wider implications for small businesses;

    (iii)  those suffering emotional distress;

    (iv)  impact on school children; and

    (v)  the support and encouragement of self-help and community groups.

Housing Executive

  The Housing Executive has responsibility for re-housing those made homeless by intimidation.

  The ASH (Acquisition of Satisfactory Houses) Scheme allows the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to purchase private sector property to help meet urgent housing need. The scheme has been used in the past to re-house victims of intimidation. In order to speed up the purchase process, the Department of Environment has, for the time being, waived a requirement for departmental approval in certain situations.

  The SPED (Scheme for Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings) Scheme allows the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to purchase, at market value, the homes of owner occupiers who have been intimidated from their homes.

  The Housing Executive has made a bid for £2 million additional funds to cover the cost of refurbishment of houses damaged during the period of the current loyalist feud, and acquisitions under the ASH scheme. The Department of Environment has included this in its bid to the Department of Finance and Personnel.

Social Security Agency

  The Social Security Agency for Northern Ireland has also been working closely with public and elected representatives and other service providers to provide a comprehensive and cohesive service to families who have been displaced through intimidation. The objective of this activity is to ensure that all those affected are treated in a fair and consistent manner.

  In particular, the Agency works closely with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which is best placed to confirm that intimidation has taken place. Such status is normally sufficient to enable Social Fund decision makers to make an award of a non-refundable community care grant to help meet immediate need where the basic qualifying conditions are satisfied (ie the applicant is in receipt of Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance).

Loyalist feud

  Since July 2000, the Agency has received 237 Social Fund applications from families displaced through intimidation in the Shankill area of West Belfast. Of these:

    —  178 non-refundable awards (totalling £68,281) have been made;

    —  individual awards have ranged in value from £100 to over £2,000;

    —  59 applications were unsuccessful for a variety of reasons including.

      —  legislative qualifying conditions not being satisfied;

      —  intimidation not confirmed;

      —  alternative household items available; or

      —  repeat applications made.

  A review mechanism is available for unsuccessful applicants including recourse to the Office of the Social Fund Commissioner, which is independent of the Agency.

21 November 2000

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