Utøya victim fights for compensation

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A man in his 20s who was shot several times during the July 22, 2011 terror attacks on Utøya has appealed a decision by the Office of Criminal Injuries Compensation (Kontoret for voldsoffererstatning), after he was awarded one-fifth of the amount he applied for. The office has paid out more than NOK 263 million (USD 44.3 million) across 1,000 cases, and said it can be difficult to assess the long-term financial impact on young victims.

Fresh flowers, new flags and mementos are still being left at this site across from Utøya, where 69 persons were killed and hundreds more injured and traumatized last summer. PHOTO: Views and News

Flowers, flags and mementos were left at a site overlooking the island of Utøya in memory of the 69 people killed in the attacks of July 22, 2011. Anders Behring Breivik was convicted of bombing government offices in Oslo and a shooting rampage on the island. Millions has been paid out by the Office of Criminal Injuries Compensation, but lawyers predict there will be more appeals over the amount compensation awarded. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The man who wished to remain anonymous suffered critical injuries in the attack, and was left a 70 percent permanent medical invalid. He was awarded NOK 1.7 million, reported newspaper Aftenposten on Monday. His lawyer, Nadia Christina Hall, said he was entitled to the NOK 8.9 million he’d applied for to cover his treatment, lost income, and the help he needs with daily tasks.

“He was a child when he was shot, and the result is that it’s him who is left sitting with the bill,” she said. “The calculation of lost income is about one tenth of my calculations, and is incomprehensible. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Office inflicts on the terror victims the additional burden it is to have to take up a fight against the state to get what they are entitled to by law. These are young people who have enough with just getting around every day, studying and living like their peers as much as they can. So this comes as an additional battle on top of everything.”

Hall said her client suffers from anxiety attacks, prepares escape plans in new places, can’t concentrate and has significantly lower grades, can only do gentle tasks around the house, and cannot play sport. His financial losses extend to the loss of future income because his career path has been cut short, the cost of medical expenses and the assistance he’ll need at home.

She estimated his future income until retirement would have been NOK 3.7 million at the current value, but the compensation office put it at NOK 430,000 – approximately one year’s salary, according to Hall. “The principle of full compensation means that the claimant must be in the same financial position as before the injury,” Hall said. “This implies that the compensation will give the claimant the same opportunities to support themselves and ensure the independence and well-being in everyday life, in spite of the injuries inflicted.”

Hall appealed the payout, and said the changes made to the compensation laws in reaction to the July 22 attacks have not in practice strengthened victims’ rights, as they were designed to do. “Now time has passed, and now the authorities have forgotten,” she said. “I am thinking especially of parents and survivors who have lost someone. They should not need to feel like a burden to society.”

Assessment difficult
The office has now paid out NOK 53 million across 286 claims from the bombing of the government quarter, where eight people were killed and nine seriously injured. About 500 people were in the area, and many suffered physical and mental harm.

NOK 210 million was paid out to 719 people after the shooting at a young Labour camp on the island of Utøya, where 69 people were killed and 33 injured. A total of 564 people were on the island, and many suffered physical and mental injuries.

The office would not comment on specific cases, but said assessing how injuries could affect a person’s future chances of employment was especially difficult for young victims. “The loss often lies many years ahead in time, and there are many uncertainties at play,” said information officer Ivar André Holm.

“This can mean that in some cases, it will take time before we can determine what the applicant’s loss will be,” said Holm. “It is in this context also important to remember that the Office of Criminal Injuries Compensation makes decisions on the loss it finds, that the present documentation substantiates.” He said more money can be awarded when the situation becomes clearer in the future.

Challenges coming
Lawyer Siv Hallgren who participated in the case against terrorist Anders Behring Breivik told Aftenposten she believed most victims had been satisfied with the amount paid out. “It was opened up so you could take these cases to court if you were not happy, but as far as I know this has not happened in any of the cases,” she said.

But Hallgren said now more difficult cases are coming into play, where victims were severely injured but survived the attacks. She said the pilot cases received fairly low payouts from the office. “That to be calculated is the support which means those who were badly injured can, in the best possible way, live a normal life aftewards,” said Hallgren. “It sounds like a lot of money, but when you break down the numbers and see what they’re meant to cover in ordinary day-to-day life, it is not much.”

“Here it concerns requirements for lost education, lost work earnings and help in everyday life,” she explained. “In these cases there is a judgment, and it must be calculated from what education they would have had and wages they could have expected to get. This is difficult to calculate. The decision in this first case means I am afraid many must go up again in the Compensation Appeals Board (Erstatningsnemnda).”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate