Victims’ payments-who is to blame?

On 22nd October 2019 the British government launched a consultation on a ‘Victims’ Payment Scheme’. 

The consultation closed on 26th November 2019.

The legislation was made on 31st January 2020 at 11.20am and laid before Parliament at 2.30pm that day.

They were the Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020 No. 103, made under the powers conferred by sections 10 and 11 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc ) Act 2019.

The NIO issued the following press release.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Julian Smith CBE MP, has today signed new legislation establishing a victims payments scheme.

This scheme acknowledges the harm caused to those people injured through no fault of their own in the Troubles through annual payments of c. £2,000 to £10,000 for the rest of their lives.

Following consultation, changes have been made to the scheme to increase the number of injured people who will qualify, and to benefit spouses and carers looking after those who were seriously injured. It will not apply to those who were injured due to their own actions or who committed serious criminal offences. An independent judge-led board will make decisions on whether payments should be made where there is compelling evidence that a payment would not be appropriate.

Secretary of State Julian Smith said: “The Troubles had a devastating impact on many, and the time has come to implement a victims payments scheme to deliver for those who need it most and for those injured through no fault of their own.

“I would like to pay tribute to the courage of those people who have fought long and hard to see such a scheme.

“We have talked about this for long enough. It is time to get it done.”

The Troubles had a profound and often devastating impact on too many people, in Northern Ireland and beyond. When we speak about the Troubles we rightly talk about the many violent deaths, but it is also vital that we do not overlook the harm caused to those who were seriously injured in Troubles incidents.

Many of the people who were injured have to live with a daily reminder of the impact of that terrible event or events – whether through loss of mobility, loss of limbs, psychological trauma or some other life limiting health condition or disability.

Following the recent consultation, the Secretary of State has introduced new rules for the scheme, so that the needs of those injured in the Troubles through no fault of their own receive the recognition that they deserve.

The new scheme will mean:

*The payment can be transferred to a spouse, civil partner, cohabiting partner, registered carer or anyone who provided a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for ten years on death of the injured person.

*The date parameters for the scheme will be Jan 1966 – Apr 2010, but an independent Board will also have discretion to consider applications for incidents outside these dates which they consider it would be in line with the purpose of the scheme to include.

*Awards may only be adjusted for historic compensation where that historic compensation is higher than a threshold.

*Payments through the scheme will not impact income-related benefits or tax (including income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax).

*Anyone injured anywhere in the UK who meet the other eligibility criteria will be eligible for the scheme (regardless of residency). And any UK citizen, or person of NI, injured in Europe will be eligible.

The discussions and delay of the past few years have gone on long enough. The time has come to get this done and deliver for those people who will benefit most.

The new Regulations will mean that from May, victims can apply for payments, and the system has been designed to support those seriously injured and traumatised in the Troubles.

This new scheme and legislation being introduced today puts victims and their needs at the heart of Government’s approach to dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

Whilst it was legislation made at Westminster, with some minor exceptions the Regulations extended to Northern Ireland only.

A number of provisions came into force on 24th February 2020. Particularly  , the provisions of Schedule 1. This Schedule provides for the formation of a Board. The law required the Executive Office to designate a Northern Ireland Department to exercise the administrative functions of the Board on the Board’s behalf.

This has not been done, on time or at all.

The Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission [“NIJAC”] must appoint all the members of the Board. This has not been done, because NIJAC has received no request from the Executive Office to so do.

I only became aware of this situation on 20th May.

We are now told that no action has been taken regarding the legal duties of the Executive because there is a row over funding.

The remaining regulations come into force on 29th May, the date when victims thought they could make application for compensation.

Nothing will happen on that date.

It is clear that neither Covid-19 nor a row  about the source of funding would have prevented the Executive from nominating a Department nor giving instructions to NIJAC.

It is equally clear that despite the Executive knowing that the date would not be met, even when visualised in early pre-Covid March, they kept quiet.

So, how did this all come about?

Here’s what the News Letter reported on 4th  February 2020

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson said face-to-face assessments “must be handled sensitively” while DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed the fact that money “will not be awarded to victim makers”. But Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill says the government “appears intent on excluding large sections of our society” from the money. Ulster Human Rights Watch welcomed the news but “will continue to pressurise Government for clarity” on how pereptrators are excluded.

At the same time Foster was telling the media that the NI budget could not fund the scheme and the Victims’ Commissioner was agreeing with her.

So, on one view of it , it’s a cock up between Westminster and Stormont and a misunderstanding as to where the money was coming from to fund the scheme.

When Stormont re-opened on 11th January, it was after tortuous discussions, including finance. The Executive knew that Westminster was legally committed to making laws for Northern Ireland, including a victims’ payment scheme.

On 17th February, that man for all seasons, Jeffrey Donaldson was quoted :

A senior DUP MP is “hopeful” that the Treasury will be “forthcoming” in funding a pension scheme for victims of the Troubles. 

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the DUP’s Westminster leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, emphasised that victims had already been waiting too long for the payments.

“The next financial year begins in April,” Donaldson commented, “So the sooner we can get a commitment to fund the scheme, the sooner the innocent victims can start to receive their payments.

“Frankly, they have been waiting too long already, and I hope that the Treasury will recognise the need to provide this funding as soon as possible.

“We would hope that the Treasury will be forthcoming with funding,” he stated. 

That statement was made a week before the first phase of the scheme was to become operational.

But is it the usual tale of  Stormont incompetence or is it something more?

At the Executive Office Committee meeting on 20th May, Foster said “we don’t have the wherewithal in the block grant…this is a legitimate expectation”.  It is of course law, not an expectation.

The SFIRA Deputy First Minister said this “it is one part of the package of legacy measures that need to be implemented… all things need to be delivered upon”.

Doug Beattie [ that towering intellect] replied: “you’re right of course”.

Later Bomber Anderson, who also graces the committee said “there isn’t the funding in the budget, the responsibility resides with the British government and we need full implementation of the Stormont House Review.”

Readers will know  that SFIRA were unhappy with the legislation, which seeks to exclude the likes of Kelly , the Shankill bomber. The Shinners are also unhappy with proposals for amnesty for members of the armed forces.

So, the message is clear, the Victims’ Payment Scheme is going nowhere, courtesy of yet another SFIRA veto.

As before , the DUP is complicit in this, terrified of another Stormont collapse and loss of power. The Official Unionists don’t count and the Alliance Party, particularly the Justice Minister, is silent.

 

The toll on victims is unimaginable.

Covid-19 for dummies-“the front line”

Here is the report of the state statisticians for the period ending 17th April 2020.

Key Points – Analyses based on date of registration

  • ·  The provisional number of deaths registered* in Northern Ireland in the week ending 17th April 2020
    (week 15) was 424; 11 fewer than in week 14 but 134 more than the 5‐year average of 290. Over the last 3 weeks, 410 ‘excess deaths’ (i.e. deaths above the average for the corresponding week in previous years) have been registered in Northern Ireland.
  • ·  Over two‐fifths (42.2%) of all deaths in week 15 were classified as ‘respiratory’ (179). Please note that all COVID‐19 related deaths have been included in this classification.
  • ·  There have been 5,245 deaths registered in the year‐to‐date, 30.3% of which (1,589) were classified as ‘respiratory’. The number and proportion of respiratory deaths is lower in the year‐to‐date than the 5‐year average of 1,613 and 31.7% (Table 2 below).
  • ·  One hundred and one deaths mentioning COVID‐19 on the death certificate were registered in week 15, accounting for 23.8% of all deaths in that week and bringing the total number of COVID‐19 related deaths registered in calendar year 2020 to 242.
  • ·  Males accounted for around half (49.0%) of registered deaths in the calendar year 2020 to 17 April and slightly more than half (54.1%) of the 242 COVID‐19 related deaths registered over the same period.
  • ·  The majority of all deaths registered in week 15 and the year‐to‐date were of persons aged 75 and above. This age group accounted for two‐thirds of all deaths and almost 75% of COVID‐19 related deaths in the year to date up to 17th April.

 

Of the 276 deaths ‘associated’ with Covid-19  so far in 2020 , 34% took place in nursing homes.

So 94 deaths , so far in 2020,  were in nursing homes and 182 were in NI hospitals.

Is this the front line?

IN 1972 , 479 people were killed in terrorist acts. Averaged out , that was 9 per week, 138 by the end of the first 15 weeks of the year.

Are we in a crisis? Is there a front line? Are all nurses, doctors and ancillary staff “heros”. What exactly are we clapping for?

Why are we locked down?

I suggest that history will show that there was no pandemic, that the NHS was never under threat and that the majority of supposed Covid deaths were due to underlying health issues and old age.

Or is that a shibboleth?

 

Ruby

 

You’ve painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tender hair

Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?

ACC Todd says the police are locking down

Oh Ruby, don’t drive the car to town.

 

It wasn’t me that started isolation, it really is a bore

But I am proud to do my patriotic chore

And yes, it’s true that Todd hasn’t got a clue

But Ruby, just walk to town in lieu

 

I

Covid-19 for Dummies

Citizens! We are currently subject to the greatest restriction to  our human rights since perhaps the Middle Ages.

The law states: “No person may leave the place where they are living.” Subject to certain exceptions.

Freedom of assembly, of movement and of religious assembly have been curtailed almost to the point of non-existence. We are under virtual house arrest. The police are, in many instances, interpreting the law in a way which flouts the words of the statute. The State is threatening to clamp down further if people continue to sunbathe. Minister Swann has weighed in to repeat the threat.

Not a peep has been  heard from our Human Rights Industry. No judicial reviews are in train.

The State narrative, picked up by most of the compliant and doltish media , is that there is a pandemic sweeping Northern Ireland. Thousands may die if we are not kept at home.

It seems likely that commerce and industry will be decimated , if restrictions are kept in place much longer.

The mental  health of our countrymen and women, fragile to begin with, is in real danger as a result of these restrictions.

The media gives us a daily score on Coronavirus deaths. At  the time of writing, Sunday 5th April at 18.00 BST the BBC tells us that “seven more people who had tested positive …have died in NI , bringing the total to 63”.

So, what are the facts?

No better starting point than the Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency. [“NISRA”]

Their data is based on death registration, not the date the death occurred. Here is their summary.

“Overall, there were fewer deaths registered in Northern Ireland in the week ending 27th March than there have typically been in the same week in recent years. Nine COVID-19 related deaths were registered by the General Register Office (GRO) in that week”.

The number of deaths registered in the week ending 27th March was 287, compared to the average number 2015-19, of 320. The graph shows that , on average , fewer deaths are occurring in NI since January than in an average year.

Helpfully the NISRA has explained how it collects data and compares that to other information.

“ The data in this bulletin are based on the date of the death registration, not on the date the death occurred. It can take up to five days for a death to be registered in Northern Ireland.

  1. Based on the latest data, 19 deaths occurred in NI between 18th March and 27th March which mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate (see below for definitional explanations).
  2. All COVID-19 deaths registered to date were of persons aged 45+.”

 

So the first bit of good news is that nobody under 45 years of age has died from the virus in NI.

Where do these other figures come from? The BBC figure of 63?

NISRA explains that, to some extent.

Differences between NISRA’s death registration statistics and the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Daily Surveillance bulletins

PHA COVID-19 Daily Surveillance Bulletin

The PHA’s COVID-19 Surveillance Bulletin describes COVID-19 activity in Northern Ireland and is produced daily. Alongside information on confirmed cases and numbers of individuals tested, this includes deaths reported on the following basis:

  • Case definition: Patients who have died within 28 days of first positive COVID-19 test result, whether or not COVID-19 was the cause of death
  • Datasource: Clinicianreports(e.g.HSCTrusts),RegionalVirusLaboratoryandlocallaboratory reports.
  • Reporting period: 09.30 am (individuals who have been reported in the previous 24 hours)

PHA figures therefore include the number of deaths reported who have tested positive for coronavirus. These are valuable because they are available very quickly, and give a good indication of what is happening day by day. Their definition is also clear, so the limitations of the data can be understood. But they won’t necessarily include all deaths involving COVID-19. PHA figures report 16 deaths associated with COVID-19 by 27th March 2020.

NISRA weekly death registration statistics
NISRA figures (which show 19 deaths associated with COVID-19 occurring by 27th March) are different from the PHA’s daily surveillance figures on COVID-19 deaths described above. The NISRA figures are derived from the formal process of death registration and may include cases where the doctor completing the death certificate diagnosed suspected cases of COVID-19, for example, where this was based on relevant symptoms but no test for the virus was conducted. The NISRA figures also include all deaths that occur outside hospital.

Figures produced by NISRA are slower to prepare, because they have to be certified by a doctor, registered and processed. But once ready, they are the most complete statistical information.

So it appears then that the Public Health Agency’s figures are not to be relied on?

They are different….

What is the real number and rate of deaths caused by Covid-19?

The NISRA says that nineteen deaths in the relevant week mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate. It is not clear whether any of these deaths were actually caused by Covid-19. They were “associated” with Covid-19. It is not stated anywhere that any death was caused by Covid-19.

If a doctor mentions Covid-19, even if there has been no test, does that get into the statistics?

Apparently. We don’t have any outcomes from Post Mortems.

But the State says it’s a pandemic?

Yes, so  it does and it legislated about it.

OK , if we can’t be sure of the exact number of dead, it’s a pandemic , so many more people are dying in NI , aren’t they?

No , actually.  Here’s what NISRA says about that:

The number of death registrations mentioning COVID-19 increased from 1 in week 11 to 9 in week 12.
In week 12, 27% of all deaths registered mentioned terms relating directly to respiratory causes on the death certificate. These are counted as ‘respiratory’ deaths in the table below and are provided to aid comparison with the COVID-19 statistics (COVID-19 deaths are also included in the respiratory category).

There have been 1,119 respiratory deaths registered in the year-to-date; this equates to 28% of all deaths so far in 2020. The number and proportion of respiratory deaths is lower in the year-to-date than the5-year average (1,354, 32%).

So, even if Covid-19 caused some deaths in the last week, the overall result was fewer deaths than the five year average.

But the Assembly had good reason to pass very restrictive measures did it not?

Here is the response. When this legislation was placed before the assembly, [not passed] one Covid-19 related death had taken place in NI. Notice how they mention “incidence and spread”.

 

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations

(Northern Ireland) 2020

Made – – – – Laid before the Assembly Coming into operation –

at 9.15 p.m. on 28th March 2020 at 10.00 p.m. on 28th March 2020 at 11.00 p.m. on 28th March 2020

The Department of Health(a), makes the following Regulations in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 25C(1), (3)(c), (4)(d) and 25F(2) of the Public Health Act (Northern Ireland) 1967(b).

These Regulations are made in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS- CoV-2) in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health considers that the restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve, which is a public health response to that threat.

In accordance with section 25Q of that Act the Department of Health is of the opinion that, by reason of urgency, it is necessary to make these Regulations without a draft having been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.

Here’s a reminder of the actual restrictions. No mention of how often you can go out or for how long or what “exercise” means. Sunbathing, barbeques or swimming are not prohibited.

Restrictions on movement
5.
—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living

without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—

  1. (a)  to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2;
  2. (b)  to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;
  3. (c)  to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph 37 or 38 of Schedule 2;
  4. (d)  to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 2 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007(a), to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;
  5. (e)  to donate blood
  6. (f)  to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;
  7. (g)  to attend a funeral of—
    (i) a member of the person’s household,

(ii) a close family member, or
(iii) if no-one within sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) is attending, a friend;

  1. (h)  to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings;
  2. (i)  to access critical public services, including—
    1. (i)  childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the child);
    2. (ii)  social care services;
    3. (iii)  servicesprovidedbytheDepartmentforCommunities;
    4. (iv)  services provided to victims (such as victims of crime);
  3. (j)  in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of the child;
  4. (k)  in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;
  5. (l)  to move house where reasonably necessary;

(a) S.I. 2007/1351 (N.I. 11). Sub-paragraph (3B) was substituted, with sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) and (3A) to (3E) for sub- paragraphs (1) to (3) by s. 78 of and paragraph 3(2) of Schedule 7 to, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (c. 9)

(m) to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.

(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises.

(4) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person who is homeless.

Restrictions on gatherings
6.
During the emergency period, no person may participate in a gathering in a public place of

more than two people except—

  1. (a)  where all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household,
  2. (b)  where the gathering is essential for work purposes,
  3. (c)  to attend a funeral,
  4. (d)  where reasonably necessary—
    1. (i)  to facilitate a house move,
    2. (ii)  to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 2 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007,
    3. (iii)  to provide emergency assistance ,or
    4. (iv)  to participate in legal proceedings, or fulfil a legal obligation.

 

 

Why have I spent all weekend in the house?

I don’t know- but the State knows what’s best for you, Dummy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Banks and Covid-19

The courts in Northern Ireland are now closed , except for pressing business such as the liberty of the citizen or family matters.

All actions by mortgagees for possession of property and all disputes between individuals and banks are in suspended animation.

Many solicitors have closed and therefore little new litigation is getting under way.

There will be a considerable backlog when the courts do finally get back into action. What will the attitude of lenders be? Will they, in the light of inevitable losses be more amenable to settlement? Or will they toughen their stance?

Over the last year, significant inroads have been made into the previously impregnable attitude of lenders , towards defaulting borrowers.

This will be the subject of a second blog, dealing with Danske Bank, Ulster Bank, Cerebus, Promontoria and others.

Meanwhile, what relief , if any, are the banks offering borrowers, distressed by Covid-19?

Here is what they say.

Barclays

I’m writing today as I know that coronavirus is a source of concern for many people right now – and I wanted to let you know we’re here to help.

Whether you would like additional support with managing your money, or have faced disruption to finances or travel plans, we can work with you to look at ways to make things easier, including:

  • Mortgage Payments: Repayment holidays on residential mortgages for up to 90 days
  • Accessing Savings: Removing penalty charges to access fixed savings accounts early
  • Paying Fees: Stopping late payment and cash advance fees for the next 90 days for credit cards.

For more information on this and managing your finances during this period, you can find our latest advice by visiting our homepage and clicking ‘Coronavirus help’ – there you’ll find links to all the content referenced in this email on pages that will be updated daily.

If you need to access your banking services and are unable to get to a branch, or need to stay at home, there are also a wide range of ways that we can help you there too. I’ve outlined a number of those below which hopefully you’ll find useful.

I appreciate that the circumstances in which we find ourselves at the moment will cause worry. At Barclays we are committed to being responsive to your needs as the situation evolves, and we will continue to be in touch with information and updates.

In the meantime – with best wishes.

Matt Hammerstein
CEO Barclays UK

 

So, if a borrower is unable to work and applies for relief, what will Barclays do? Here are two relevant Q and A’s.

 

Will I be charged interest on my mortgage while the repayment holiday is in place?

Yes, we’ll continue charging interest on your mortgage, and we’ll apply it to your mortgage balance monthly. You will not, however, have to make any payments during the holiday period.

How will this affect my mortgage payment at the end of the holiday period?

We’ll be in touch before your payment holiday ends to tell you what your new monthly payment amount will be and the date when payments will begin again. The amount might be higher than before the repayment holiday started. If you’re worried about paying the new amount, our support team will be able to talk through some options, such as extending your mortgage term to ensure your payment is affordable.

In other words, a “mortgage holiday” means delaying the inevitable payments and probably incurring additional interest charges , which will increase the amount of your monthly payment and/or push out the date on which your mortgage ends.

 

This is what the Danske Bank website says.

Is a payment holiday the right option for me?

A payment holiday is a temporary break from your repayments to help you through these uncertain times.

There are a few things to consider before applying for a payment holiday, to make sure it’s right for your situation:

  • The interest on your mortgage will continue to accrue during the payment holiday.
  • If you have a fixed rate mortgage, there will be no change to your fixed payments after the payment holiday. If you move on to a reversionary rate after your fixed rate period ends, then these payments will be higher than shown in your original mortgage agreement.
  • If you have a variable rate mortgage, like a base rate tracker or if you are on standard variable rate, then the interest accrued will be added to your mortgage and the repayments after the mortgage holiday period will increase as a result.

Please be aware that if you need independent support regarding your mortgage, you can get help from Citizens Advice, Housing Rights NI or other debt counselling agencies.

So, in some circumstances, your payment may not change after the “holiday”. Like Barclays, this offer is not necessarily open to those already in arrears.

The Ulster Bank website is rather more terse.

Here are some things to consider before applying for a payment holiday:

  • At the end of the holiday your monthly payments will be recalculated and you will see an increase in your monthly payments.  We’ll give you an estimate of what that will be before setting up your break
  • The total amount of interest you pay over the term of the mortgage will increase.

 

Let’s remind ourselves of what the government  had to say about this, as the BBC reported it.

And Mr Sunak said that for those in financial difficulty due to coronavirus, mortgage lenders will offer a three-month mortgage holiday.

BBC personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz said it was important for borrowers to remember that they would have to make up the payments at a later date. 

“The result is that you have some breathing space but when you resume payments the amount will be adjusted to be slightly higher, because the missed interest payments have been added to the loan,” he said. “This doesn’t mean the mortgage holiday is a bad idea.”

 

It would seem that the mortgage holiday is merely a temporary relief, for which the borrower will have to pay. Those already in arrears are unlikely to benefit and those teetering on the brink may find that the new repayments are beyond their reach.

Borrowers should think twice and get advice before going on  a mortgage holiday

Many borrowers have businesses. Again the government promised relief. Here is what the Times reported on 26th March.

 

The government and the banking industry are being urged to revisit the terms of emergency coronavirus loans after some directors were told that they would be personally liable for bank debts underwritten by the taxpayer.

The business department is to talk with lenders to discuss how this burden could be lightened after a backlash over the onerous terms being asked of the owners of small companies.

Yesterday, Royal Bank of Scotland, the biggest banker for small companies, said it would not ask for personal guarantees to secure the loans, putting pressure on other lenders to follow suit.

Under the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, the state will underwrite 80 per cent of the risk of bank loans of up to £5 million. However, borrowers are liable for the entire debt, as the taxpayer guarantee is purely for the banks’ benefit, intended to give them confidence to lend to businesses that they may otherwise avoid.

Lenders including Barclays and HSBC have been asking directors of companies struggling to stay afloat to sign personal guarantees, as well as to pledge business assets as security.

Second homes and other personal assets also could be at risk. The banks point out that the terms of the scheme mean that they must exhaust all recovery action against borrowers before they can claim on the state guarantee.

The business department is aware of the anger among business owners and officials are due to consult UK Finance, the banking trade body, on the issue.

Kevin Hollinrake, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking, said that the government must issue “clear and direct guidance” that there will be no personal guarantees.

Gina Miller, founding partner of SCM Group, a wealth management firm, and a campaigner for fairer financial services, said: “These personal guarantees are rubbing salt in wounds.”

 

So again, all is not as it seems. Whilst the government is making money available and ‘guaranteeing’ it; the lender will be required to exhaust all steps to recover the money from the borrower before the government guarantee will be operational. Even if the business is not required to give a personal guarantee, only those with the protection of limited liability are likely to  escape proceedings potentially involving their homes and personal property. Even the directors of a limited company could be personally liable in certain situations.

Irish Legal News reported this move by the IOD.

UK: Directors urge government to relax insolvency rules to save businesses

Directors across the UK are asking the government for a temporary indemnity which allows them to keep technically insolvent firms in operation during the coronavirus pandemic without fear of legal action.

Under current legislation, company boards can be sued for failing to wind up a company if it is running out of money and facing insolvency.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has therefore asked for such rules to be relaxed to prevent viable businesses from collapse to avoid legal consequences.

The Treasury and Bank of England are offering billions of pounds in loans to businesses to counteract the effects of the pandemic, but the IoD said that directors may hesitate to take them “if they believe that, by failing to declare insolvency now, they may face personal financial and legal liabilities at a later date”.

Under the Insolvency Act 1986, directors can be sued for wrongful trading if they do not put a company into administration or liquidation that is later declared insolvent.

Creditors also can issue winding-up petitions to get their money back if they fear it is being wasted keeping the business going.

The IoD urged that in these extraordinary circumstances, boards should be allowed to continue to run their companies even if technically insolvent as a means of maintaining employment levels and preventing a major economic downturn.

It said that firms should not hesitate to seek government support if their business was a viable concern before the onset of the crisis. In this environment, maximising the ability of creditors to recover funds from a struggling entity after a lengthy legal process is not the economic priority.

The institute said: “Of much greater importance is the need for companies right now to maintain their service levels to the general public and support the economic position of their employees.”

The IoD emphasised further, that it would be entirely inappropriate to allow previously viable companies to go under when the proximate cause of their financial distress are the measures demanded by Government – even if they are imposed for the best of reasons. 

Jonathan Geldart, IoD director-general, said: “During the current crisis, directors are facing unprecedented challenges and need to see urgent temporary measures to avert entirely preventable corporate collapses.

“We’re calling on Government to prioritise jobs and the business survival by relaxing existing insolvency obligations put on directors and thereby providing business leaders greater room for manoeuvre at this critical juncture.

“We should not allow a single viable businesses to go to the wall because of this crisis.”

 It will be interesting to see if the government grants any relief.

The present situation prompted this statement from The Prudential Regulation Authority, as reported by the Times, on 26thMarch.

 

Banks can relax procedures for booking bad debt caused by coronavirus so that they can keep lending to businesses and individuals, the regulator has said.

In a “Dear CEO . . .” letter today, the Prudential Regulation Authority said that uncertainty about the impact of coronavirus and the possibility that the economy could bounce back sharply when the pandemic subsides meant that banks did not have to follow normal rules about credit losses.

Among the areas that can be relaxed are covenant breaches and missed payments. The guidance comes as companies are beginning to ask for leeway from their banks. The shopping centre owner Intu Properties warned today that it would breach the terms on its debt commitments after a collapse in rents unless it can secure debt waivers from its lenders.

Sam Woods, the PRA’s chief executive, said in the letter to banking bosses: “These measures are aimed at ensuring that banks are able to continue to lend to households and businesses, support the real economy and provide robust and consistent market disclosures.”

The letter is the most detailed intervention yet by regulators to guide banks over how to apply the IFRS9 accounting standard, which was introduced in 2018. The standard, which requires banks to recognise losses as soon as they start to appear, was created in the aftermath of the financial crisis to force lenders to provide an accurate picture about the state of their books more quickly.

Bankers said, however, that Brexit and now the coronavirus were very difficult to deal with under IFRS9 owing to their uncertain impact. Banks should not classify customers as more likely to default on loans just because they took payment holidays on mortgages or other loans, the PRA said. Instead, banks should take “ well-balanced decisions” based on the likely positive impact of the government’s support measures for the economy and long-term economic trends.

When assessing covenant breaches on loans by businesses, banks should differentiate between “normal” breaches and those occurring because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the PRA said.

Paul Lynam, chief executive of specialist lender Secure Trust, said: “The simple fact is, the vast majority of consumers and businesses were creditworthy and viable before the crisis and will be once the storm has passed. Bellyaching about moral hazards made the last crisis worse and longer. The Treasury and the regulators are to be applauded for their decisiveness and pragmatism, which will undoubtedly make Covid-19 less damaging than would otherwise be the case.”

Mr Woods’ letter follows a communication yesterday from Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, with Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England governor, and Chris Woolard, interim chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, urging banks to lend. “This will require a willingness to maintain and extend lending despite the uncertain economic conditions. We must ensure that firms whose business models were viable before the crisis remain viable once it is over,” they said.

The out workings of the financial crash of 2007-08 are still with us. Will Covid-19 add another layer to the present litigation?

 

So, like Noah, we await that dove with the olive leaf.  [Genesis 8:11]

 

 

 

 

 

Who was Willie Frazer?

                                  

In Northern Ireland, nothing is ever as it seems.

Frazer was a leading member of Fair, in Markethill, the epicentre of victims’ groups.

Here is the BBC report from November 2012.

“Willie Frazer, the director of a victims’ group whose funding has been frozen, has said he is stepping down from his role.

A European funding body wants £350,000 which it gave to Fair returned.

Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) has also had funding from the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers stopped.

Mr Frazer said on Friday that he was quitting his post because he did not want members of Fair to suffer.”

The issue disappeared. Frazer continued to be a “victims’ campaigner” sometimes acting the maggot, as some would say.

Then , magically, he attracted new funding from you and me.

Arlene Foster  became his new best friend and visited FRPU, an interesting acronym.

Then the Irish News published this.

“19 June, 2019 01:00

FUNDING for a charity linked to loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer has been withdrawn.

The Victims and Survivors Service pulled the cash from the Family Research and Policy Unit (FRPU) last month.

The service provides funding to community and voluntary organisations which deliver “support and services in a wide range of areas including health and wellbeing and advocacy support”.

Until recently the FRPU was based in Markethill in Co Armagh.”

So , apart from being careless with public money, did Willie have any other vices?

BBC Spotlight was less than convincing about their conversations with him but Pastor Barry has weighed in, more less confirming the story. Willie supplied arms to Protestant terrorists.

In 2004 Willie judicially reviewed the state regarding access to legal arms. The case is reported at 2004 NIQB 68.

The judgment contained the following correspondence:

By letter dated 12 May 2003 from the Firearms and Explosives Branch of the Northern Ireland Office the applicant was informed that the Chief Constable had revoked his Firearms Certificate as the applicant was unfit to be in possession of firearms and that:

“He based his decision on a reliable intelligence report that you associated with loyalist terrorist organisations. He considered that your association with these organisations did not arise from your work with FAIR and could not be described as legitimate.”

 

In a response dated 20 May 2003 the applicant [Willie Frazer]  disagreed that there was no specific threat to his life and referred to further evidence supporting such a threat as well as indicating that it was incumbent on the Northern Ireland Office to conduct their own enquiries into the matter. In relation to the alleged terrorist associations the applicant stated:

“Contrary to the rather hollow claims of the Chief Constable I have no links whatsoever with any paramilitary movements.” 

[My underlining]

[41] In a letter dated 2 June 2003 the Secretary of State refused the applicant’s appeal stating:

“(1) You did not need a PPW as Special Branch have advised that you are not the subject

of a specific threat.

(2)You are unfit to have firearms and ammunition as the police have intelligence from a reliable source to

indicate that you have recently associated with loyalist terrorist organisations.”

So in the looking glass world of Northern Ireland, the State, which funded Frazer handsomely, said that he was involved with terrorism, though he was never charged with any such offence.

Frazer  [whose friends would now like him to be remembered as a leader of the fight against republican violence] denied on oath that he had any such links.

Perhaps the answer is to be found in his mysterious escape from sanction when the European money went missing.

Was Willie turned? Was he made an offer by the State? Why did he promise so much and deliver so little? Was he a lightning conductor for protest? Did he involve himself in so many protests in order to report to his masters?

Given the statistics from Stevens and others, it’s odds on that Willie was a tout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Protestant wind

Since my retirement from the Bar and my ensuing freedom to say what I choose, without the republicans and their fellow travellers in Chichester Street having a go at me, I have pursued the killers of my parents and supported others who have lost loved ones.

Readers of this blog will know that I allege that the State had an involvement in my parents’  murders.

One of our early successes related to  the killing of John Bingham. Bingham was reportedly a loyalist commander. The circumstances of his murder cried out for a proper investigation. One that the RUC did not provide.

When the question ‘why?’ is posed, the State falls silent.

As a result of dogged work by others, Operation Kenova has now sent a file on this murder to the PPS.

Our allegation was that the killing was carried out by republicans, some or all of whom were State agents. We further alleged that the State covered up the circumstances of the killing.

The matter is now the subject of a file within the PPS. State sponsored killings are particularly repulsive and  formerly have been regarded as the province of South American dictators.

But there are more worrying aspects. And we should not rest on our laurels.

Three lawyers, employees and agents of the Crown,  have been reported for prosecution for perjury. You can read more about this in the Guardian and two articles written by Henry McDonald.

This must cause concern about the probity of any case in which these lawyers had an input.

Jon Boutcher has often , to me and to others, used the phrase ‘boiling the sea’.

By this I understand him to mean that the extent of alleged State involvement in crime during the Troubles is massive.

Boutcher has presented the PPS, [within whose walls some alleged criminals may reside, or at one time may have resided] with a small number of files.

If he has information that the nexus between terrorists and the State goes much further, his duty is to present that evidence to the Chief Constable and his duty is to conduct further investigations.

BBC Spotlight has brought into the public domain some of the material that many of us have known about for many years.

The republican movement, SFIRA, the Finucane Centre, Relatives for Justice, Sean Murray , Trevor Birney and his republican mate, are all silent.

But there is a bigger picture. James Sefton was targeted and killed by republicans for reasons other than his service with the RUC. By 1990 PIRA was not only riddled with agents and informers but also well surveilled by hardware.

This took the form of cameras, listening devices, satellites, computers and other technology  still in use in updated formats all over the world. The State knows precisely who killed him and my mother. It hold this information secretly, guarded by the spooks and probably corrupt lawyers and police officers.

Now the door is ajar. Let’s kick it down. The roll call of senior  republican figures is , at least:

Adams

McGuinness

Bobby Storey

Spike Murray [father of Sean Murray, the ‘film maker’]

Brian Gillen

Sean Maguire

They were employed  by the State and were participating informants in murders and other serious crimes relating to police officers, politicians and other innocent civilians.

The phrase “Protestant Wind”  refers to the storm that scattered the Spanish Armada and  the wind that propelled William of Orange to Torbay.

It is now starting to cleanse Northern Ireland of the canker of State murder of its own citizens

Making a living from the peace process

Kenny Donaldson appeared on BBC Radio Ulster  Evening Extra on Friday 30thAugust.

The principal reason for his interview was in relation to the re-appointment of Judith Thompson as Victims’ Commissioner.

Leaving aside the car crash interview which he gave [ more on a future blog] he said this: “ a lot of people are paid as a result of the peace process, their livings [sic] depend on it”.

The point being made  was not immediately obvious.

Was he criticising those people? Was he expressing concern that if the peace process broke down , they would no longer be paid?

Perhaps a clue is to be found in an exchange he and I had in May of this year, where , out of the blue, he accused me of stating that he earned money out of victims. I asked him for proof of where I had made this allegation but his reply was:

“play your smart lawyer tricks with someone else..a small number of people are obsessed with money, most are not. Unsure what camp you are in”.

So let’s analyse that. I have never applied for nor received any money from the Victims and Survivors Service, which doles it out on behalf of the Executive Office.

Let’s look at South East Fermanagh Foundation, company number  NI 606566.

It has filed accounts to 31stMarch 2018. SEFF’s income from grants was £762,360. It is set to receive £705,903 in the current financial year.

Undoubtedly good works are done down there. Macramé, bus runs, musical evenings.

So how many people are employed? The answer is ten.

How much do they earn? Well, the individual salaries are not listed . But here is the interesting thing. These ten people cost the taxpayer, you and me , £348.000 in the last financial year. How much did ten people cost in the previous year? £173,000.

So why did the wage bill for the same number of employees at SEFF double in one year?

Perhaps Kenny Donaldson knows the answer.

Meanwhile we have the ridiculous spectacle of one state paid individual , Donaldson, criticising another, Thompson, for not doing her job.

Twice asked by the interviewer “will you work with her?’ , twice Donaldson failed to answer.

Is it because his living depends on the peace process?

Soon , Dear Reader, I will blog about the victims’ legislation.

Stay solvent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Brief affair with Simon Byrne

                         

Dear Reader! If you have ‘issues’ or are of a nervous disposition, go no further!

Only a few weeks ago, Fat George, the NIO placeman/policeman, vacated his post and in came  Simon Byrne.

Thrusting, opinionated and unemployed, he was an ideal choice for Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Nonetheless, I would hear no ill spoken of him . This ex chief constable of Cheshire Constabulary is known for his firm management style, which is totally different from bullying.

I was enraptured by the idea of a dynamic Chief Constable, after George’s size 40 waist.

Simon’s was 38 at the most…

Perhaps I was carried away. I don’t know, to be truthful…..

Anyway, he arrived and he was on Twitter! Oh Joy!

I followed him!

And he followed me back!  No Chief Constable had ever done that before…

It was because he paid me attention, I think…

So, emboldened, I sent him a direct message on 14thJuly and I said this:

“The murders of James and Ellen Sefton remain unsolved. Your officers assert that there is no intelligence touching upon their killings. This is untrue. You have an opportunity to change the picture by being candid about the true extent of the involvement of State actors. Will you help?”

My delicate young heart beat more swiftly , while waiting for a response.

None there came.

Disgracefully, I prostrated my heart and reached out again to this English Alpha Male.

I said, on 20thJuly, rather lamely: “disappointed that you have not replied”.

Still he did not reply, though he had read both messages.

Am I a fool to myself?

I refuse to believe these seventy four allegations against him were ever true. I’m sure that there is an explanation and that   he is out there for me and that some day my Chief Constable will come and tell me the truth.

 

Simon?