On the 16th of July this year the Ministry of Justice published their consultation into its Criminal Injuries Compensation Review.
The Victims Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC has now responded and as part of her response Dame Baird has made a series of recommendations including major changes to the CICA application process.
She has suggested that the Victim/Survivor should not be required to set out their story on the Application Form as this information is already available in the police report.
This is obviously the most difficult part of the Application form to complete with any Victim/Survivor whom we may represent as it necessitates them to relive the crime, when this information is already obtainable by the MOJ by way of requesting a copy of the police report which would include any statements.
The next recommendation, which in our view is the most sensible and beneficial, is that the two-year time limit for claims should be amended to two years or 12 months after a trial, whichever is later.
This is one of the most common problems with CICA Applicants who are awaiting the Offender to attend trial. The police quite often ask the Applicant not to submit an Application to the CICA until the trial has finished. When the trial date extends past the two-year time limit, we often speak to clients who are now outside of the window to apply but have done so at the request of the police.
This makes the prospects of success limited in these instances and should the MOJ accept this recommendation it would alleviate this problem overnight.
She has also suggested that tariffs should be increased annually in line with inflation so that awards are not constantly being eroded. We do not think that anyone would disagree with this recommendation.
Another suggestion is that victims with Unspent Criminal Convictions should not automatically be exempt from claiming compensation, which again in some circumstances can be for the most minor of offences and sentences when the Applicant has suffered the most horrendous sexual assault/abuse.
Another recommendation is that the victims of murder abroad should be eligible to apply to the UK Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
Another sensible recommendation in our opinion as at the moment such victims are referred to a reciprocal agreement with our European Neighbours although should the murder have occurred outside of the EU the Application process can be particularly sketchy or in some Countries not applicable.
Dame Baird has offered many sensible suggestions in her response which would have a real benefit to Applicants so we would hope that these recommendations are taken on board by the MOJ and look forward to their response in due course.