The Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove of Warrington, recently produced a review report of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and is now calling for “the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), the Ministry of Justice, victim service providers, Police and Crime Commissioners, police and prosecutors to work together to deliver a package of wide-ranging reforms to the compensation process”. She is also calling for free access to legal support “to those vulnerable victims who cannot reasonably be expected to submit a claim without assistance”.
The review comes following a recent High Court judgment which has led to an increasing reluctance on the part of service providers to offer guidance and support to victims of violent crime.
From February 2018, Victim Support Scotland (an independent charity aimed at supporting victims of violent crimes) stopped any form of support for victims in applying for criminal injuries compensation. This included relinquishing responsibility for any victims that they had previously been representing as well as not taking on representation in any new cases.
In England and Wales, Victim Support will continue to represent victims, acting on their behalf if they accessed support prior to February 2018, however Victim Support will not act as victims’ representatives in any new cases. Victim Support in England, Wales and Scotland will no longer give advice and guidance to victims about their eligibility for compensation and will direct victims to the CICA if they would like to find out if they are eligible.
After engaging with over 200 victims, as well as Police and Crime Commissioners, victim support services, criminal justice agencies and lawyers, the Commissioner’s review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme found victims often felt frustrated and alienated by the process.
Survivors of violent crimes report being asked to constantly repeat their story and are required to complete forms outlining details of the crime, including location, dates and addresses. Victims have also faced delays, as well as uncertainty and poor communication regarding their case, with many adding that the compensation scheme was so stressful it could re-trigger trauma.
According to the report, almost 40% of victims felt it was necessary to reach out to a third party to make the claim on their behalf because of the distress instigated by the process. The report said:
“Evidence from this review demonstrates that completing this part of the CICA (Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority) application form is highly traumatic as it re-triggers memories of the incident.
“Some victim service providers make the point that the level of detail required from victims is unethical, given current knowledge about the negative effects of continually asking victims to repeat their story.”
The review also found that three in five victims spoken to were not aware of their entitlement to claim compensation at all, which Newlove added “raises a question as to whether there are potentially thousands of victims who fail to claim compensation simply because they are unaware of the compensation scheme.”
Furthermore, the review highlighted concerns about the extent to which other criminal justice practitioners understood how the scheme works, with “some victims being cross-examined by defence barristers about whether they had made an application for compensation, and whether this had motivated their complaints.”
The Commissioner concluded that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is being operated as a “transactional service” with CICA staff describing what they call a “task-based” process.
Unfortunately, by the CICA taking this stance, it is feared that sight has been lost of the very specific needs of those making the claims.
Jeremy Smith, Senior Personal Injury Solicitor here at PRD, comments:
This review report confirms our own extensive experience of helping the victims of violent crime who have suffered life changing psychological and physical injuries. We have dealt with so many cases where either the CICA have wrongly refused an application and compensation has only been awarded on appeal to a Tribunal or the CICA have made a totally inadequate offer and again we have had to pursue an appeal to obtain a proper award. Had these victims had to deal with their case on their own they would undoubtedly have suffered great injustice. We very much welcome any changes to the scheme that will reduce the trauma to victims and improve the process. In the meantime it is clear that victims more than ever need proper legal support to help them obtain the compensation they deserve.
At Potter Rees Dolan, we have a team of highly experienced lawyers who specialise in claims for serious criminal injuries. If you have been the victim of a violent crime, you may be able to claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), even if the perpetrator hasn’t been caught.
If you have suffered as a result of a violent attack, contact our team of specialist criminal injury solicitors. We understand how harrowing and distressing it can be having to have to relive the incident. Our specialist personal injury solicitors have vast experience in handling matters of a very sensitive nature and are committed to helping you through it every step of the way.
To speak to our solicitors in confidence about making a claim, simply call us on 0800 027 2557 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you at a convenient time.