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Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

Volume 622: debated on Monday 19 February 2001

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the consultation exercise on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (HL865)

The Government will shortly be inviting Parliament to approve a wide-ranging package of improvements to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The scheme provides payment to those who have been the victim of a crime of violence or who have been injured in trying to apprehend criminals or prevent crime in England, Wales and Scotland.The introduction of the statutory scheme in 1996 broke the link with the common law damages basis of assessing compensation used under the earlier, non-statutory scheme. Compensation is now determined on the basis of a tariff (scale) of awards for injuries of comparable severity. Additional compensation for loss of earnings or earning capacity and the costs of care are payable to victims more seriously affected by their injuries.In 1999 the Government published a consultation paper

Compensating Victims of Violent Crime: Possible Changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The paper sought views on how the scheme might be improved in the interests of victims of violent crime. It was sent to individuals and organisations with a particular interest in the scheme, to the media, and to members of the public on request. Those responding included victims' organisations, academics, trades unions, the legal profession, police, charities and individual victims.

The Government made it clear in the consultation paper that any changes to the scheme would have to be made within the existing legislative framework. In the light of the responses to the consultation paper, and of the outcome of the Spending Review 2000, the Government have carried out a thorough review of the scheme and have drawn up a wide-ranging package of improvements.

The Great Britain Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is already one of the most generous and comprehensive in the world. The improvements that the Government are now proposing will mean that many victims of violent crime, especially those more seriously injured, will receive even more compensation for their injuries, and that all victims will find the scheme clearer and easier to use.

Outline details of the changes proposed are as follows:

Uprating the tariff levels:

Some respondents to the consultation exercise argued that the value of the tariff awards had been eroded since the tariff scheme's inception in 1996. However, an across the board reflation of all tariff bands would be very expensive, and the Government do not consider that this is either necessary or would make best use of the available resources. Awards at the top end and bottom end of the tariff do not, in the main, differ too significantly from the level of damages typically awarded by a court. It is in the middle bands where any divergence is more noticeable. The Government accordingly propose to uplift tariff bands 7 to 23 inclusive by 10 per cent. This will significantly increase the compensation payable to many more seriously injured victims.

Increased Awards for Sexual Assault and Child Abuse:

The view was widespread amongst respondents to the consultation exercise that compensation for rape and child abuse was too low. The Government have looked carefully at this very complex area, and are proposing that there should be a significant increase in awards for rape and sexual assault and for serious sexual and/or physical abuse of children. For example, the minimum award for rape would be increased by almost 50 per cent (from £7,000 to £11,000), and the maximum payable for serious physical child abuse would more than double. All the injury descriptions relating to physical and sexual abuse have been carefully reviewed and the relevant sections of the tariff re-ordered for greater clarity. The Government also propose additional payments of compensation for victims infected with HIV/Aids.

Increasing awards for serious multiple injuries:

Compensation for victims who suffer serious multiple injuries is calculated by formula. Under the present scheme, victims receive 100 per cent of the tariff award for the most serious (highest value) injury, 10 per cent of the award for the second, and 5 per cent for the third. Many respondents to the consultation exercise thought this formula left more seriously injured victims under-compensated, despite the formula being developed on the basis of practice in the civil courts. The Government share that concern, and propose to increase the formula to 100 per cent, 30 per cent, 15 per cent.

Extending eligibility for fatal awards to partners of the same sex:

Under the current arrangements, only parents, children, spouses or long-term heterosexual partners of homicide victims can qualify for a fatal award under the tariff. The Government believe that there are no grounds for continuing to exclude long-term homosexual or lesbian partners from this aspect of the scheme, an issue that was highlighted following the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in 1999. The Government will be recommending that Parliament makes the appropriate change to the scheme.

Other detailed changes:

Having thoroughly reviewed the scheme, and in the light of the advice of the bodies charged with its administration, the Government are proposing to refine many of the injury descriptions and make presentational changes to the layout of the tariff of awards to make it simpler for victims to understand. The Government also propose making a number of minor, textual changes to the scheme itself to remove possible ambiguities and provide greater clarity where experience has suggested this would be helpful.

The proposed changes to the scheme would cost some £20 million in a full year. The Government believe that the proposed package of changes will greatly improve the scheme for the benefit of victims of violent crime, and that the wide-ranging changes proposed would make the most effective use of the resources available.

The Government will shortly be laying a draft of the scheme incorporating the proposed changes before Parliament, and inviting approval by the affirmative resolution procedure. If such approval is forthcoming in time, it is proposed that the changes would come into force on 1 April 2001, and apply to all applications lodged on or after that date.