West Law Report

Two thirds of crime victims unaware they can claim compensation

Posted in Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) by mrkooenglish on November 22, 2008

Two thirds of crime victims are unaware that they can claim compensation and very few ever bother applying for money, according to a damning new report.

By Andrew Porter Political Editor, telegraph.co.uk
Last Updated: 5:16PM GMT 19 Nov 2008

It showed that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority was “shambolic,” one MP said.

In particular victims of violent crime find themselves in a “quagmire” when trying to get compensation. The scathing report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee came eight years after they previously drew attention to the failures of the system

Edward Leigh, the chairman of the committee said: “Eight years ago, our Committee gave a withering verdict on how the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority was performing. Since then that performance has deteriorated even further.

“A large proportion of citizens who are injured by violent criminals are left in ignorance of the compensation scheme, leading to the absurd situation that only five per cent apply for compensation. The tiny proportion which applies is then stymied by complex application forms.”

The scheme can make awards to those who have been injured as a result of violent crime. The payments range from £1,000 to £250,000. The maximum award when taking into account loss of earning is £500,000.

The report found that, in 2006, 64 per cent of victims of violent crime were unaware of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and only 5 per cent applied.

Mr Leigh added: “A good many applicants waste money on being represented by solicitors because no one in authority saw fit to draw their attention to the free service provided by Victim Support. Cases are processed inefficiently and are therefore taking longer to resolve. And the cost of processing each case has leapt by 50 per cent.”

Earlier this month it was revealed that the family of a man stabbed to death in the street were initially refused compensation because it was ruled that their son contributed to his own death by challenging a violent drunk.

Craig Matthews, 20, was knifed up to nine times after shouting at a man who was urinating in a garden. He bled to death after an artery was severed in the attack.

Ian Yates, 29, was jailed for life for the murder, but Mr Matthews’ parents were initially refused damages from the CICA. They were offered £7,000, half the normal amount for the parents of a murder victim, but then appealed and were finally paid the full amount.

Richard Bacon, a Tory MP, said: “Victims of violent crime have more than enough to deal with and many will be coming to terms with their injuries for a long time to come. They deserve better than the shambolic performance of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The Government continues to improve the quality of the practical and emotional support victims receive, providing access to compensation, ensuring they have timely access to information, and ensuring their voice is heard in the system.

“Since 2006 CICA have improved the access and quality of services for victims of violent crime and a more efficient case handling process is resulting in faster decisions.”