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Our View: Compensation blunder shows immoral attitude of Legal Service

Photo: Christos Theodorides

THE Attorney-general’s office, justifiably has come under merciless criticism from the media for its decision to appeal against the level of compensation awarded by a court to the family of fireman Vassilis Krokos, who perished in the Mari explosion. In the proceedings, the State accepted full responsibility for the death of the 13 men who died in Mari on July 11, five years ago.

The family was awarded €570,000 by the court which took into account Krokos’ career prospects in the service and the promotions he would have received in order to reach this sum. The Legal Service, which represented the State, believed that the court’s calculations were mistaken, claiming that it had arbitrarily taken into account certain promotions and had ignored the cuts imposed on the wages of public employees by the 2013 memorandum and appealed against the compensation awarded. It did not appeal against the compensation to three other men killed in the explosion.

Perhaps, legally, Attorney-general Kostas Clerides felt it was his duty to appeal against the decision once he had identified a mistake in the way the judge had calculated the compensation the State would have to pay. But was there not also a moral issue here that would justify ignoring the letter of the law? Krokos left behind a wife and a 10-month-old daughter and no amount of money would be adequate compensation for their loss.

Under the circumstances, it seemed very cheap and petty to file an appeal even if there was a high probability it would have been won. Saving the taxpayer a few tens of thousands of euros by depriving them from a family, whose main breadwinner was killed because of the negligence and incompetence of the State authorities, was certain to spark an angry public reaction. People would ignore the legal technicalities and, justifiably, ask if this was how the State treated the families of men who died in the line of duty?

But as if Clerides’ blunder was not bad enough, the government, concerned about the bad publicity the case was generating, has decided to pose as the ‘good guys,’ even if this meant violating the separation of powers and undermining the Attorney-general’s authority. The Council of Ministers yesterday announced it accepted the amount of compensation awarded by the district court and asked the Finance minister to consult with the State Legal Services about the matter and give instructions for the immediate payment of the full amount awarded by the court.

In many cases, the compensation awarded is not paid if there is an appeal against the court’s decision. That would have meant the Krokos family would have to wait for five or six years (the average time it takes) for the Supreme Court to reach a decision, before it received any compensation. Had Clerides not thought about this either, when he decided to appeal?

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