“What price a life?” – Jonathan Wheeler in The Times over the sorry state of bereavement damages in this country
Sir, It cannot be right that it is cheaper to kill people in England and Wales than it is to maim them (“£13,000 payout for a dead child is an insult, say mothers”, report, Sept 17).The law of damages places a higher value on a badly injured thumb than on a life. Bereaved relatives receive statutory damages of £12,980 after the wrongful death of a loved one, compared with between £14,000 and £25,000 awarded to someone with a badly injured thumb.
In a just society, the law needs to show much greater understanding to bereaved families. England and Wales has a production-line approach, awarding a prescriptive amount to a restricted list of eligible relatives, excluding unmarried partners, step-parents, and children who have passed their 18th birthdays. In Scotland, by contrast, the amount awarded relies on legal precedent and a proper examination of the closeness of the bereaved to the deceased, to ensure that any payments are fair.