Claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as a result of abuse have always been complex. As a department we specialise in such claims and have had notable successes where clients have recovered significant sums of money as a result of abuse suffered decades earlier.
The problem we used to face with the scheme was that any claim had to be brought within two years of the abuse occurring or by the age of 20. Our clients were often many years out of time and the CICA had to be persuaded to exercise discretion to allow claims to proceed. Medical evidence was often sought to justify the applicants delay in coming forward and I have two particular claims ongoing at the present time where clients are likely to receive a six figure damages award despite the abuse having taken place more than 20 years ago.
With the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012, however, we are presented with a new problem.
88 (1)(b) of the scheme reads as follows:
“Where the Applicant was a child under the age of 18 on the date of the incident giving rise to the criminal injury, the application must be sent by the Applicant so that it is received by the Authority..
In the case of an incident reported to the Police on or after the Applicants 18th birthday within two years after the date of the first report to the Police in respect of the incident”.
This has a significant impact on historic abuse cases. We are often contacted by applicants following the successful conviction of their assailant. As we all know the Criminal Justice System moves slowly. It can often take more than two years for the case to come to court. This is particularly true in historic abuse cases where a significant amount of investigation is needed into a crime that took place decades ago. Under the wording of the new scheme the claim would fall foul of the requirement to bring the claim within two years of the police report.
An applicant is therefore left in a difficult position. The police are not usually keen for a claim to be submitted before a criminal trial. The first question a defence counsel will often ask a witness is whether a compensation claim is being brought as a result of the abuse. The clear implication is that the allegations are being made for monetary gain and that the abuse never actually took place. It is often therefore desirable to delay the claim until after the conviction of the abuser. The problem the new scheme creates for victims is that if they do delay and the criminal trial takes more than two years from the date of the first report they will have difficulties overcoming Section 88 (1)(b).
This week we had our first refusal of compensation on exactly these grounds. We are confident that we will be able to successfully appeal this. The message for anyone who has suffered abuse and wants to bring a CICA claim is to contact a solicitor as soon as possible.
These are complex matters and I would strongly recommend that you contact a specialist abuse solicitor if you need advice on bringing a claim. For a confidential discussion with an experienced member of our dedicated team please don’t hesitate to call 0845 050 1958. Alternatively please complete an online enquiry form.