The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme hit the headlines once more after the government published a consultation paper (Rebuilding Lives: Supporting Victims of Crime) with proposals to reform the scheme. Under the current scheme, victims of crime are awarded a sum of money to compensate them for their injuries.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme last hit the headlines recently after the tragic events of July 7th when terrorist attacks left many people seriously injured and the length of time taken for a victim to receive their award – an average of 39 weeks.
The scheme deals with claims made by victims of crime on or after 1st April 2001 and the new proposals will not be retrospective if and when they come into force.
The Current Scheme
To be eligible for an award the claimant must have sustained a criminal injury. The injury must have been suffered in Great Britain and unless good reason can be shown otherwise the application must be made to the scheme within 2 years of the incident.
The CICA may also reduce or withhold an award in its entirety if it is shown that the victim did not cooperate with the police and/or their conduct before, during or after the attack will also be considered.
The scheme adopts a tariff system that takes into account the severity of the injuries as well as the number of injuries the victim has suffered. In this way, awards are made uniformly and the scheme is seen to be fair.
Compensation can also be made for loss of earnings (although not for the first 28 weeks), special expenses and for fatal accidents. There is a maximum award of £500,000.00.
The new proposals aim to offer practical help and to reduce the ‘victim’ culture that the scheme is seen by some to encourage. One of the main aims is to reduce the number of awards and amount of awards offered to victims of less serious crimes and to increase the pot for victims of serious crimes.
The definition of ‘serious’ will have to be carefully considered, as this will be a contentious issue. The Times reports that one potential definition is ‘a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.
The CICA will not be subject to any extra funding from the government in the future and therefore by reducing the amount of awards for less serious injuries, the government hopes to free up more money for the victims of more serious crimes.
Victims of less serious crimes will be offered medical treatment, more secure locks on their houses and therapy to help them to deal with their ordeal. This will obviously cost money and the cost saving advantages of these measures will have to be balanced in order for the new proposals to be advantages and money saving.
The cap on compensation of £500,000.00 will also be removed allowing for greater awards for those injuries deemed serious enough.
Another proposal aims to shift the onus from the government to employers for those victims of crime at work. Many public sector workers such as hospital workers and the police force are subject to violent criminal attacks during the course of their employment.
The government’s consultation paper propounds the idea that the scheme could discourage some employers to create and maintain a safe working environment for its employees. They advocate that it is the employer who is best placed to ensure that an employee is safe at work and to put in place systems to minimise risks to them.
Currently the law states that an employer is under a common law duty to take reasonable care for the safety of its employees. An employer is also subject to several statutory duties and health and safety regulations, which govern how an employer should implement safe systems of working.
It will be interesting to observe how the fear of financial implications will drive employers to take further care for their employee’s safety – if forced to pay out compensation for random criminal acts insurance premiums could also rise greatly. The impact on small businesses could be particularly great.