Compensation without re-traumatisation: The Victims’ Commissioner’s review into criminal injuries compensation
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This review looked at victims’ whole experience of claiming criminal injuries compensation, including their experience of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), as well as their wider experience of seeking and receiving advice and support in making their applications. The review identifies a number of issues faced by victims when applying for criminal injuries compensation and makes recommendations for improvement to ensure that criminal injuries compensation helps to de-traumatise victims, to simplify the Scheme and provide victims with the support they need to make their application.
The review found that the process of applying for criminal injuries compensation can be extremely traumatic for victims who have to repeat details of the crime numerous times. The Scheme is highly complex, and nearly 40 per cent of victims seek help from a third party to apply. There is a lack of free support for victims in applying for criminal injuries compensation and victims often have to pay out up to 25 per cent of their award to solicitors. There is a lack of awareness about criminal injuries by criminal justice professionals. Fewer than 4 in 10 victims recall being told by the police about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, raising concerns that many eligible victims do not claim compensation simply because they are unaware of their right to do so. Victims face long waits for decisions and large numbers ask for decisions to be reviewed or take the CICA decisions to appeal at Tribunal. Many victims are told not to apply until after the trial because it could be used against them in court. When they do claim, some find that they are out of time.
The Victims’ Commissioner wants to see a simplified Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme that helps to de-traumatise victims and offers them support to make their application. The VC is calling for victims to have free legal support if the complexity of their case or the severity of their injuries warrants it. She wants victims to have a single point of contact or named case worker in the CICA to deal with their application. The Scheme should be more transparent so that victims have a clear idea about the process and timescales to expect. Victims should automatically be kept up to date about their cases and receive acknowledgements when their documents are received by the CICA. Victims should be able to apply up to 2 years after reporting the crime, or one year after the trial so they don’t have to apply when the trial is still under way. Other aspects of the rules of the Scheme should be reviewed by the Ministry of Justice, such as the handling of cases where the compensation is held in trust, and exclusion of victims or reduction of awards on grounds of conduct or unspent convictions.