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Monday, 9 July 2012

Victims footing the bill

There can be few things worse then being a victim of a crime of violence.

Not only do such attacks leave physical injuries they can also leave mental scars. 

Since the early 1960s the UK has had a system of Criminal Injuries Compensation which is highly regarded across the world. In a report in 1962, former Attorney General (and Liverpool Lawyer!) Lord Shawcross said –

No great philosophical revolution is therefore required for an acceptance of the simple principle, that the innocent victim of violent crime should be entitled to compensation from the State for his personal injuries.’

The system has never been perfect. There have been criticisms that the levels of payments were to low or that  certain victims are excluded from eligibility based on their lifestyle etc. But overall the system has provided some recompense for victims who are injured as a result of criminal behavior.

It is a shame therefore that the government has announced plans to exclude even more victims from payments on purely financial grounds. The planned cuts were announced by Minister of Justice Ken Clarke last week. You know that cuts for victims are on the horizon when ministers talk about focusing on ‘seriously injured victims of serious crime’. Under plans there is no award if an injury is worth less than £2.5k and payments up to £11k are to be reduced. These are not minor injuries.

This seems to create an arbitrary distinction between victims. If a person is mugged in the street they have had an extremely distressing experience through no fault of their own. If they suffer a significant injury but one which attracts less than £2.5k under the CICA tariff they get nothing. If a person’s injury is a bit more serious they get a payment. They have both been mugged. So they should both be compensated.

This seems to be another example of victims being deprived of justice to fund cuts elsewhere. We have seen story after story of bankers getting away with misconduct on an industrial scale. We also saw billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money go on bailing out the system.

When there is a hole in the state’s finances why should the victims of crime – who are often the most vulnerable, be the ones to pay.

At the moment these are just proposals as part of a consultation. Let’s hope that they do not go any further.

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