Proposed changes to the CICA scheme will leave innocent victims of crime out of pocket
If you are the victim of a crime and as result you suffer injury you can claimcompensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). Awards of compensation are based on a pre-set tariff scale with the more serious injuries attracting the higher awards. In order to make a CICA claim the crime must have been reported to the Police, you must cooperate with the Police investigation and your behaviour must not have led to or aggravated the situation. Any claim under the CICA scheme should ordinarily be made within 2 years of the incident.
At present, the CICA can decline or reduce a compensation award if it decides that you were partly to blame for the incident or if you have unspent convictions.
It is not necessary for the Police to prosecute the perpetrator of the crime in order to make a claim under the CICA scheme.
However, the Justice Minister, Ken Clarke has recently announced changes that will severely limit both the number of people who can apply for compensation under the CICA scheme and the amount of compensation that they will be entitled to receive. Under the planned changes no one with a previous conviction, whether it is spent or not, would be entitled to apply for compensation. Likewise those with injuries which under the tariff scheme are deemed to be very minor will not be entitled to make a CICA compensation claim at all. This could include injuries such as a broken nose, broken toes or even scarring.
Levels of compensation are also being reduced. Some claims involving minor brain jury could see the level of CICA compensation being reduced by up to 25%. However, the more serious injuries will not be affected by the proposed changes to the level of compensation and victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence will still be entitled to apply.
These changes to the CICA scheme represent another attack on the innocent victims of crime. Last year the CICA itself announced that it would not release awards of compensation to solicitors acting for claimants under the scheme. This was seen as an attack on access to justice and a cynical attempt to exclude solicitors from the CICA process. It can be difficult to win an award of compensation under the CICA scheme and without legal representation victims of crime are more likely to accept the first award that is made or fail to appeal an inadequate award. Specialist injury solicitors like ourselves are experienced at dealing with CICA claims and know when a decision should be challenged. Fortunately the CICA bowed to overwhelming pressure on this point and have reverted to the previous system of payment.
In the vast majority of criminal injury cases victims of crime have no other means of seeking compensation other than through the CICA scheme. It therefore seems unjust that in a civilised society we are trying to restrict the amount of compensation which is paid to the victims of crime.