"Disgraceful" cuts to crime victims’ compensation come into effect

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"Disgraceful" cuts to crime victims’ compensation come into effect

27th November 2012

Victims who suffer injury as a result of a violent crime will now be denied compensation under changes which have come into effect today (27 November).

The move by the Ministry of Justice will end payments of compensation to victims of crime for claims below £2,500 – injured in incidents of ‘lower level violence’ - and significantly reduce payments for claims below £11,000.

Matthew Evans, head of the Criminal Injuries department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the changes – which have come into force despite a last-minute delay in September which campaigners hoped would lead to a rethink - would have a significant impact on thousands of victims. “The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was set up to help the thousands of victims and families of those affected by violent crime every year,” he said. “Those victims have relied on it to obtain much-needed damages after their lives have been seriously affected through no fault of their own.

“We already felt that the scheme’s tariff of compensation did not reflect the true impact violent crimes can have on their victims, but now further reducing the amount of compensation just adds insult to injury,” said Matthew, a partner with the firm.

“Furthermore, and perhaps even more importantly, the changes will prevent victims being able to claim the earnings they have lost as a direct result of their injuries. If last week someone was attacked and unable to work, then they would have been able – quite rightly - to claim any loss of earnings up to around one-and-a half times the average industrial wage,” he said. “For most victims, that enabled them to recover most if not all of what they had lost financially through no fault of their own.

“But if that same person was attacked this week, then under the new rules they cannot claim for loss of earnings over and above statutory sick pay - which is just £85 per week.”

Matthew said the ability to recover most of the lost earnings was a real financial lifeline to victims of crime. “Now that’s been taken away and I think it’s going to cause real and additional hardship to innocent victims,” he said. “It is simply disgraceful.”

Only weeks ago, Justice Minister Helen Grant had delayed the reforms in an apparent U-turn, reigniting hopes amongst campaigners that the Government would reconsider the move. But when a parliamentary committee met at the start of this month, the unchanged plans were approved by nine votes to seven.

The CICA was established in 1964 to manage and administer compensation to those who have been injured as a result of crime. It could award compensation in amounts from £1,000 up to a maximum of £500,000.

“Our clients include people of all ages who have been victims of serious and violent crimes, including assault, robbery, sexual offences and arson,” said Matthew. “In some circumstances the CICA would also make payment to someone who has suffered a psychological injury as a result of witnessing an attack on a loved one. Other victims might have been less seriously injured, but nevertheless were still entitled to redress under the scheme.”

Now, victims who suffer injuries including concussion, temporary deafness or minor burns – including retail workers who are injured in armed robberies and assault - will be no longer eligible.

“Falling victim to crime can be a distressing experience and people can suffer real financial difficulties if they are unable to return to work while they are recovering,” said Matthew. “Surely it’s only right and just that, as a modern society, we continue to support innocent victims properly and provide them with the redress they need to help them get back on their feet.

“By cutting crime victims’ compensation, the Government is cutting their access to justice,” he said.

Read more at: BBC News