According to a data revealed in a Freedom of Information request, £11.9 million compensation for noise induced hearing loss has been paid to PSNI officers.
The Freedom of Information request was made by Sein Feinn MLA and Policing Board member Gerry Kelly and relates to the period between October 2013 and October 2015. During this period, 2,415 claims for noise induced hearing loss were settled in favour of current and former officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The claims relate to a failure by the PSNI to provide suitable hearing protection during weapons training. As the only routinely armed police force in the UK, PSNI officers had to undergo regular training. The injuries suffered by the officers range from tinnitus to partial deafness, with the individual settlements of compensation for noise induced hearing loss varying according to the level of injury sustained.
A spokesperson from the Police Federation for Northern Ireland said that many claims still remain unresolved. “There were deficiencies in the ways in which officers were protected from damage to their hearing”, the spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph. “These claims come forward because damage has been caused and all officers are awarded is what the courts deem to be appropriate settlements.”
Mr Kelly expressed concerns about the “staggering” amount of compensation for noise induced hearing loss paid out over the two years, and alleged that the claims had been mishandled by the police service. However, a statement from the PSNI’s legal services branch refuted Mr Kelly´s allegations and said the service was confident all claims against the organisation were dealt with appropriately.
The Police Federation spokesperson added that PSNI officers should be treated no differently than other employees injured at work and that – since the 1960s – the police service had been aware of medical evidence connecting the lack of protection to noise induced hearing loss.