We recently reported that the Coalition Government planned to reform the Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme to the detriment of individuals who are assaulted at work. We were then pleased to report that the Government did an 11th hour u-turn on the proposed changes which was welcomed by Thompsons and trade unions alike. Unfortunately, we are now returning to a report of bad news as the reforms have been passed by a parliamentary committee and are set to be approved by Parliament shortly.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (‘CICA’) is a Government funded organisation which pays compensation to innocent victims of crime who have nowhere else to turn. The scheme is funded by the taxpayers and applications are made to the scheme where personal injury is suffered as a result of a criminal act.
In January 2012 changes were proposed to the scheme which removed the rights of those who are convicted of a crime to obtain compensation without any investigation into the type of offence which they had committed for example those with minor road traffic offences would be excluded. Further to this, there were proposals to end compensation awards for victims of minor injuries. This included for example broken noses and minor psychological reactions to an attack or in the case of train drivers, railway suicides. The proposed changes, quite rightly, attracted much criticism from MP’s, unions and victim support groups. As a result of the criticism in September of this year Justice Minister Helen Grant said she would reconsider the plans.
Unfortunately the Coalition Government has stayed true to form and confirmed once and for all that they are not on the side of victims of crime. On 1st November the Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee met to decide upon the proposed changes and these were presented unchanged, despite Helen Grants previous statement regarding reconsideration of the proposed changes. As a final blow to those who are victims of violent crime the committee approved the plans by nine votes to seven. The changes are to be put before parliament in the coming days and will likely be approved.
Shadow Junior Justice Minister Robert Flello has claimed that the Government ‘stacked’ the committee by ensuring people on the Government payroll were present to vote to ensure the proposals were approved. He has further alleged that ‘almost 90 per cent of all innocent victims of crime will no longer receive compensation as a result of their injuries.’
The MoJ have announced that the proposed changes include the creation of a £500,000 hardship fund for low earners to assist those who are forced to take time off work and are not covered by an occupational sick pay scheme. We say that this does not go far enough to offset the removal of compensation awards for minor injuries. Quite simply the changes to the CICA scheme are a short sighted cost cutting measure for a government who presents itself as being tough on crime, although clearly is not succeeding in reducing it and is putting innocent victims, into financial hardship as a result.