It was with great interest that I read the comments of Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove, who has said the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is re-traumatising survivors of violent crimes and abuse.
In her review of the CICA scheme – which is in place to compensate innocent victims of crime – she says the process is often having a detrimental effect on those it is in place to support.
One area highlighted is how victims are made to again provide details of the crimes against them including times, dates and addresses, despite the CICA always applying to the relevant police force for a full copy of their victim statement.
It does at times feel like much of the CICA process is unnecessary and unsympathetic to those it was designed to help, and the underlying purpose of Baroness Newlove’s review was intended to highlight a victim’s ability to access compensation.
Whilst we must not forget that having such a process in place is a good thing, the current scheme is deficient in many respects and can be seen to fail victims at a time when they need understanding and support.
As a specialist legal firm which represents hundreds of people in making successful claims through the CICA each year, our team at Hudgell Solicitors see many issues daily which seem to mirror the concerns expressed by Baroness Newlove, including;
Failing to make interim payments to ease the financial pressures on victims
Many victims are left unable to carry on with their usual work and find themselves in a tough financial position.
Unlike many other claims processes however, there seems little willingness to make interim payments, even in cases which are long-running and where the victim has suffered serious, permanent injuries.
Commercial insurers are quick to make payments when liability is not in issue as they realise that early payments help injured parties rehabilitate and ease the financial effects of an injury, but the CICA rarely make interim payments even in circumstances where there could never be any other route to compensation possible.
Failing to make the process easy enough for a victim to deal with
Baroness Newlove’s report says victims who took part in the online survey said the most common reason for turning to legal help was because they were too traumatised to complete the application themselves, and that the application process seemed too difficult.
Applicants are not entitled to access Legal Aid, neither are legal costs recoverable if an award is made.
In CICA claims solicitors are not able to recover any legal costs either, even in cases involving seriously injured clients. This means they have to take an agreed percentage of the final damages to cover providing legal support, meaning there is a financial burden to bringing a claim back for the injured victim. That does not seem fair.
Too many delays and a lack of detail
A lack of transparency relating to dates for milestones or steps to be taken in the case is a major issue and can add to the trauma of making a claim. Drawing a parallel with other claims, for example, fast track injury claims involving commercial insurers can take as little as 15 working days for a motor claim and 30 days for an accident at work.
By contrast many CICA claims take years to conclude and is not uncommon for claims to take 4-5 years.
This firstly means people have to discuss and relive the matter many times over a number of years, but also their frustration with the process grows.
As a result they typically end with the mind-set that they will accept the first offer made, when in reality, they should be receiving more.
To us that often feels like the victim has been punished again by a process not doing what it is intended to do.
Given the frustrations we see for many, our team at Hudgell Solicitors work hard to lessen the burden, whilst also ensuring we focus on securing a compensation settlement which reflects the suffering endured.
We are experienced in ensuring the right documents are obtained and provided to the CICA, such as forms, details of the crime and supporting evidence, and in placing ourselves between those we represent and the CICA to make the process the least traumatic as possible, and put clients in the best position to maximise their claims for compensation.
Often, the people we represent need to feel somebody is finally listening to them and the impact of what happened to them on their lives. They don’t want to keep telling their story, they want people to understand, and to move on as quickly as possible.