THE COMPENSATION CULTURE

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has just been reviewed by the affectionately named Baroness Newlove, and it doesn’t make for easy reading.

Before picking through her report, those of you with long memories will know that the CICA started out life in 1964, when you and I were wearing a younger man’s clothes. Its avowed purpose was to compensate victims of crime, a laudable aim, but easier said than done.

Baroness Newlove said her review found that the CICA was needlessly forcing survivors to repeat traumatic details.   That body seemed “calculated to frustrate and alienate” those it should be helping, she said.

The Ministry of Justice, which oversees the CICA, is considering the findings.

Victims of sexual or violent crimes, including bereaved relatives of murder victims, are able to claim money from the CICA to help them recover. That financial support can help them access counselling or improve safety measures around their home, or an all expenses holiday to New Zealand!

However, Baroness Newlove said the process of claiming support is often having a “detrimental impact” on their wellbeing.

Under the system, people need to provide details of the crimes against them including times, dates and addresses. I fail to see how this can be described as having a “detrimental impact” on their wellbeing.

“Evidence demonstrates that completing this part of the CICA application form is highly traumatic as it re-triggers memories of the incident,” the Conservative peer wrote.

That said, and it may be true in some cases, the CICA is handing out taxpayers’ money, and is enjoined to be vigilant in order to weed out the false claimants, of whom there are many. Those of us at the legal coalface will have our own first hand experiences, and unless nipped in the bud, large sums of money can be shovelled in the path of those who are wholly undeserving. The recent well publicised cases from the Grenfell fire disaster speak volumes.

“Yet, in every case,” she witters on, “the CICA apply to the police for a full copy of the victim statement and reports so the need for the victim to repeat their story on their application form is unclear.” It’s crystal clear to me.

The CICA has previously been criticised by campaigners for withholding compensation on arbitrary grounds. 

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson, having thumbed through his dictionary of well worn platitudes, said: “Whilst no amount of compensation can make up for the immense suffering endured by victims of violent crime, we are committed to ensuring that they receive the help and support needed to rebuild their lives.

“We take this duty very seriously, which is why as part of our victims strategy last year we pledged to look at the difficulties faced by some when applying for compensation.”

Its own review of the system is scheduled to report back later this year. I can hardly wait.

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david

David is an English barrister, writer, public performer and keynote speaker. His full profile can be found on his website.

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