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Upper Street stabbing: mum was told murder ‘didn’t affect her’

Bereaved Michelle McPhillips, who was told she was not entitled to compensation, has decision overturned

02 August, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Michelle McPhillips with JJ, who was stabbed in Upper Street in February 2017

THE government’s compensation scheme for victims of violent crime has come under fire after a bereaved mother who watched her son die when he was stabbed in the chest was told she was not entitled to anything.

Michelle McPhillips, a popular landlady of the Green Man pub in Essex Road, rushed to the scene after being told her son Jonathan, also known as “JJ”, had been stabbed in Upper Street in February 2017.

She was with the 28-year-old when he went into cardiac arrest on the road while being worked on by paramedics. She had to make the decision to turn off his life support machine in hospital two days later.

But an evaluator at the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) – a government body that deals with compensation claims from people affected by violent crime – ruled that she was not entitled to any compensation because “you did not witness the immediate aftermath”.

“I was absolutely devastated, angry and emotionally drained to think that someone would honestly turn around and write in black and white on the report that losing my child had no affect on me whatsoever,” said Ms McPhillips. CICA compensation can reach up to half a million pounds for those severely affected by a crime.

The CICA evaluator wrote in the report explaining their decision that “there had been a time lapse between the incident and you appearing at the scene”.

Jonathon ‘JJ’ McPhillips

Ms McPhillips has fought this decision for the past four months with her solicitor Keith Barrett, a partner at Field Fisher, and the initial decision that she wasn’t entitled to anything was overturned last Friday ahead of an appeal hearing. The final decision on the scale of compensation is still expected to take six months because the application is returning to the first stage of the process.

Mr Barrett had to go to the headquarters of the Met’s murder squad in Dagenham to review the CCTV footage from the aftermath of JJ’s killing to prove that Ms McPhillips had arrived within almost a minute of her son collapsing.

Ms McPhillips only found out about the compensation scheme through a film crew making a documentary on her son’s death and not through advice given to her from Victim Support.

Keith Barrett

She said: “I had to employ a solicitor because they make it so complicated and the timescale is that you only have two years to make the claim from the day the person dies. That’s not really fair. I find it trickery and dishonesty on their part. How was I supposed to find out about this while dealing with the bereavement of losing my son?”

She added: “They should do it a lot quicker because of the financial burden of having to pay for funerals after your child is murdered.”

She explained that a large proportion of families cannot return to work after a child’s murder due to “the devastation of the loss”.

Mr Barrett, who lodges multiple CICA appeals each year, warned that “there was a flaw in the system” and Ms McPhillips had “suffered enough” without being initially refused the compensation she deserved.

He questioned what evidence the CICA used to come up with their initial decision and said the CICA wrote to him confirming they did not request or look at any CCTV footage from the night.

He said: “I think generally the CICA, in my experience, will do their absolute best not to pay and you have to be prepared for the long haul. The problem is that because they don’t pay costs even if you win your appeal, a victim of a crime of violence must foot their legal bill.”

 

No one has been convicted of JJ’s death but an inquest is scheduled for the Old Bailey today (Friday).

The Ministry of Justice which administers the claims, did not respond to a request for comment.

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