Schedule of Loss Amendments
From 27th November 2012, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme underwent a number of significant changes. By amending the schedule of loss which dictates who can claim through CICA, the Government has excluded many injuries which it considers ‘minor’ from attracting compensation.
Minor Injury Exemptions
The full list of injuries which now cannot be claimed through CICA is too long to fully enumerate here. The trade union movement, however, has estimated that the changes affect almost 90% of criminal injuries compensation claimants in one way or another. Injuries such as a broken nose, mild concussion, temporary deafness, or minor burns, are now unlikely to attract any compensation at all. Most injuries which formerly attracted payments of under £1,000 are not now eligible for compensation.
The Government has made these changes in order to keep CICA’s budget under control, stating that the reforms will cut £50 million from the annual criminal compensation bill. This is usually around £200 million, but in 2011/12 it rose to around £450 million, largely due to a significant backlog of payments from previous years. Unions, however, have pointed out that an award of £1,000 or less is not necessarily an insignificant amount of money to a victim of violent crime, and the new scheme takes away from victims the feeling that some justice has been done through compensation.
Unspent Criminal Convictions
The scheme has also been changed to make it more difficult for claimants with unspent criminal convictions to apply for compensation. In most circumstances, anyone with an unspent criminal conviction is now unable to claim through CICA. The Government claim that over 20,000 people with criminal convictions have claimed a total of £75 million through the scheme, which is the reason for these changes. The problem, of course, is that the nature of one’s criminal conviction is not usually taken into account when making the decision about compensation. A four year old conviction for possession of cannabis, for example, could now lead to someone who is raped being ineligible for any compensation whatsoever.
Increased Victim Surcharge
In addition to the cuts being made in CICA provision, the Government is also increasing the so-called ‘victim surcharge’, which is payable by any offender who is fined by the courts. The intention is that the surcharge will help to fund the CICA scheme in the future, reducing the burden on the taxpayer. Whereas the surcharge was formerly a £15 addition to all fines, the new Government scheme imposes a surcharge of 10% of any fine, and increasing lump sums in the case of a community or custodial sentence. It remains to be seen whether this will protect the CICA scheme from further changes in the future.
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