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Man Who Lost Legs To Appeal Claim Decision

Mar 29 2004
--By Gemma Murray, Securty Correspondent

A MAN who lost both his legs in a UVF punishment attack is preparing to challenge a Government decision to refuse him compensation, while it is paying out funding to a loyalist prisoners' group.

Andrew Peden, 40, whose legs had to be amputated after the brutal beating and shooting, said he felt it was "very unfair" that he and his wife should be forced to struggle on welfare - while the Ex-Prisoners Interpretative Centre (EPIC) were granted funds.

EPIC won a High Court battle last week, forcing the Government to aid their work.

Mr Peden said it "stuck in his throat" that loyalist prisoners were getting money while he got nothing from the Government: "It is just unfair that EPIC can be granted compensation.

"I was told I was not eligible for money because I had a criminal record from years ago and because I did not co-operate with the police.

"Yes, I was convicted years ago for small things, but not for
terrorist offences.

"I don't know why I was refused." Mr Peden said his life has changed dramatically since he lost his mobility - he and his wife have struggled financially.

"Since the shooting, I have not been able to work. My wife and I are now homeless and living in an hotel. It is a struggle. We have been homeless for 18 months. My health has also been bad and I am just out of hospital.

"After EPIC won their compensation battle it makes the picture look a little different. There seems no reason why I cannot appeal."

In May, 2000, weapons, including a powerful machine gun, were found by police in the offices of the North Antrim branch of Ex-Prisoners' Interpretative Centre, in Ballymoney.

The ex-prisoners' group said it had vacated the offices prior to the arms find.

And, last year, the EU's anti-fraud office found there were serious weaknesses in the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trusts monitoring of the funding to the group.

The former NIVT was ordered to recover £26,500 of EU money it gave to EPIC, in Ballymoney, by the EU anti-fraud department.

However, speaking outside the High Court on Thursday, PUP frontman Billy Hutchinson told of his delight that a decision by the Secretary of State to refuse funding to rebuild the burned-out headquarters in Belfast was overturned.

"This is a landmark decision because it is the first time the
Government has reversed a decision in relation to ex prisoners' in terms of compensation."

The former MLA spent 16 years in prison for a double murder.

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