The new Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012 comes into force today and any applications made on or after today, will be dealt with under this new 2012 scheme. Any applications already made will not be affected by the changes.
Ministers claim that the reforms will save the government £50m a year. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) was receiving a vast number of claims each year and it was taking them as long as two years to deal with a claim. This effectively meant that the victims of the most serious crimes were not receiving the attention they deserved. The reforms are intended to speed up the process by dealing with only the most serious injuries.
The new 2012 reforms were discussed previously before Parliament in September this year. The introduction of the new scheme was delayed due to a large number of criticisms by many MPs, unions and charities such as Victim Support, as it would mean that innocent victims of crime would be losing out as a result of the reforms.
However, the parliamentary committee met again at the beginning of November to ‘consider’ the reforms and the unchanged plans were approved by 9 votes to 7 despite previous concerns.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012 effectively removes band 1-5 awards currently allowed under the 2008 scheme. Most minor injuries will now be excluded under the new scheme and even some injuries which many would consider quite significant, such as a ‘fractured nose’ (previously band 1-5 awards) or ‘facial scarring leaving minor disfigurement’ (previously a band 3 award).
It also reduces awards for the other bands as follows:
Band 6 awards - reduced by £1,500 (to £1000);
Band 7 awards - reduced by £1,800 (to £1500);
Band 8-12 awards - reduced by £2,000.
(Other higher bands not effected)
It would appear that along side the new scheme, will be the provision of a 'hardship fund'. This is intended to help victims of crime who would now be excluded under the new scheme (minor injuries and the like). However, this fund only provides help where there is a loss of earnings and the applicant is not receiving Statutory Sick Pay or the like.
The new scheme does still retain the lower Band 1-5 awards for sexual assault and physical abuse (children and adults) under Part B of the new awards tariff. The 2012 scheme expressly excludes injuries sustained in the utero such as foetal alcohol syndrome and drug withdrawal.
Under the previous 2008 scheme, you had two years from the date of injury to make an application and there was no separate provision for minors, which on occasions caused problems, as the child would often be subject to lengthy care proceedings or similar before any application was dealt with.
It would appear from the new draft 2012 scheme, that there is now a specific provision for under 18s. This basically states that if the injury/abuse was reported to the police before the applicant's 18th birthday, then the child has until their 20th birthday to submit an application - provided the CICA can make reasonable investigations into the matter.
The previous 2008 scheme also had a provision not to make an award if it was 'not in the child's best interest to make an award', for instance; if they knew nothing about the abuse due to their age. It appears to have been agreed that this will no longer be a reason for refusal under the new scheme.
In summary, victims of crime (excluding sexual and physical abuse victims) will on the whole not be better off under the new scheme. Only time will tell whether these reforms will improve the service provided to the victims of the most serious injuries.
By Dave Buck