10 February 2012
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority ("CICA") is a government organisation, funded by the taxpayer. The organisation reviews and decides upon claims for personal injury suffered as a result of a criminal act.
Under the guidance of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2008, the CICA is currently able to reject or reduce claims if, amongst other things, the offence took place before 1964, the applicant has a criminal record or taking into account the applicant’s behaviour before, during or after the incident. However, this is at the CICA’s discretion and if, for instance, any previous convictions took place a considerable amount of time ago or the crime was not too serious then the CICA could potentially award the claim.
Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has put forward proposals to reform the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. His aim is to prevent those who have previously been convicted of crimes from claiming for injuries and psychological damage as a result of a criminal act committed against them.
The rationale behind this reform is clear; from a moral point of view it cannot be justifiable to allow a person who has committed a crime themselves to later benefit from the system. In fact a number of sources report that in the last decade, 20,000 people with criminal records have been paid more than £75million, including a rapist and a person convicted of two killings.
Another aspect of the proposed reform is to try and cut down on the number of claims being brought for minor injuries. A particularly notable case is one in which a claimant was awarded a four-figure sum for “temporary mental anxiety” after being hit over the head with a bunch of flowers!
Finally, the reforms are expected to add to the CICA’s money pot by requiring all convicted criminals to pay set amounts into the scheme (the amount depending on the severity of the crime) and not just those criminals that have been fined as part of their punishment, which is currently the case.
The above is, however, only one side of the story and there are many who would argue that those convicted of crimes have already served their time. Why should they then be made to pay again?
One case reported on the BBC News Humberside website referred to an appeal by a Mr Keith Vincent after he was refused criminal compensation following the murder of his son (Adam) due to Adam’s previous drugs conviction. Mr Vincent was, therefore, effectively being penalised by something connected to his son’s past and which was nothing to do with him.
The law should be there to protect and safeguard anyone who has been the innocent victim of a criminal act. The proposed reform will look to only granting compensation to those with a criminal record in exceptional circumstances. Is this right? Perhaps the way forward should be to allow such claims unless the previous conviction is too serious to warrant this - which is an option currently available to the CICA in any case. Are these reforms therefore necessary at all or are they simply a political ploy by the Government to win back popularity?