Victims 'not seeking compensation'

Criminal Injuries Compensation

27.11.2008

A committee of MPs has delivered a damning report into compensation for people injured in violent attacks.

The Government's public accounts committee found that less than 5% of those eligible for payouts of up to half a million pounds from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority were applying.

The MPs said that two thirds of victims were unaware of the scheme and those who did apply were hampered by a complex application form.

Bureaucracy also meant that they suffered delays in receiving their money, and many victims spent money on expensive lawyers because they did not know free legal help was on offer, the committee found.

Its report, Compensating Victims of Violent Crime, criticises the Ministry of Justice for affording the agency a "low priority" despite its claims to put victims at the "heart" of the criminal justice system.

Ministers failed to set the body rigorous targets, the MPs said, as costs and bureaucracy increased and standards slipped.

Neil Whiteley, Partner with Irwin Mitchell's Sheffield office commented:

"We welcome this report which highlights a number of shortcomings that remain with the criminal injuries compensation scheme, despite various measures aimed at improving things. It is vital that those who suffer injury as a result of crime are made aware of their rights, and that those who choose to seek compensation can do so without experiencing the long delays which are commonly still occurring with the scheme.

Although the report questions why some 20% of claimants employ solicitors for a fee when the scheme is "free", we are aware that the compensation authority makes decisions to refuse an award which are plainly wrong, or make awards which are too low. By obtaining legal advice those decisions can often be changed when challenged. This is particularly important for people who have suffered serious injuries as the compensation may be needed to replace lost income or pay for care or treatment."