Today I have laid before Parliament a public consultation on one of the eligibility rules of the statutory criminal injuries compensation scheme 2012 (the scheme). This follows the criminal injuries compensation review 2020 in which we consulted on proposals to improve the experience of victims applying for compensation, by making the scheme simpler and easier to navigate.
The statutory scheme exists to compensate victims of violent crime in Great Britain, to recognise, through compensation, the injuries and harm they experienced. The so-called unspent convictions rule has been an eligibility requirement since the first statutory scheme came into force in 1996. The 2012 scheme sets out the circumstances in which an award will be withheld or reduced where the applicant has an unspent conviction. In the 2012 scheme an exclusion was introduced which means that an applicant is not eligible if they have an unspent conviction that resulted in a custodial or community sentence. The rationale for this is to prevent individuals who have committed serious illegal acts benefiting from state-funded compensation, to reflect the degree of harm done to others and the cost to society of offending behaviour.
Since 2012 there have been varying calls for abolition of the rule or reform of it to reintroduce discretion, particularly in relation to certain victim groups or specific circumstances such as compulsion or childhood trauma. As part of our review of the scheme leading up to the 2020 consultation, options for reform were carefully explored and in the consultation our conclusions for proposing no change to the rule were explained.
In July 2021 the Supreme Court determined that the rule in the 2012 scheme is lawful and proportionate, and stated that the exclusionary approach is an acceptable one and has the advantage of leading to consistency and clarity. The Supreme Court also noted that the legislator is entitled to adopt a scheme with clearly defined rules for determining entitlement to publicly-funded compensation. However, in a separate case the High Court found that the Government had not met a legitimate expectation to consult on reform of the unspent convictions rule. This was because the 2020 consultation did not ask a specific question on whether it should be revised in line with a recommendation made by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2018. As required by the High Court we are publishing this supplementary consultation to invite views on reform of the rule.
We are looking at the rule afresh. The consultation poses broad questions about retaining the rule unchanged, which remains an option, and on the following potential reforms: introducing exemptions so that not all claims are automatically rejected on the basis of a specified unspent conviction; amending the terms of the rule to reduce the number of claims that are automatically rejected; and removing the exclusionary part of the rule so that no claims are automatically rejected.
After this second consultation we will decide whether or not to revise the rule and share our conclusions and proposals about reform of the scheme as a whole following our comprehensive review.
The consultation is available in full at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/criminal-injuries-compensation-scheme-review-supplementary-consultation. The consultation will close 5 August 2022.