As specialists in supporting victims to claim compensation for injuries suffered as the result of criminal acts, our team at Hudgell Solicitors often has to advise people who turn to us about strict rules regarding convictions.
Under current laws, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) will not award damages to anyone who has an unspent conviction against their name which resulted in a sentence such as a prison sentence, community order, a period on probation or a youth rehabilitation order.
It is therefore something which thankfully doesn’t impact on most who turn to us for support, but it is something which has prevented many from making a claim since the rules changed in November 2012.
In the past, those with unspent convictions against their name were still able to claim compensation at a reduced rate, with the CICA using a penalty points system (ranging from 1 to 10) to determine the extent to which the compensation was lessened depending on the type of conviction.
In extreme cases a claim could still be rejected completely if the maximum number of penalty points (10) were applied.
The introduction of a blanket ban in 2012 on CICA damages for all those with unspent convictions against their names has led to some cases which have appeared somewhat unjust, and has even led to a number of challenges being made over potential breaches of Human Rights.
There are however still some offences which continue to attract a reduced sum of compensation, such as fines or driving bans.
As most convictions have a rehabilitation period attached at the end of the sentence, they remain ‘unspent’ for a further period of time (i.e. 12 months for a community order). This can also delay or prevent a claim being made.
Is a blanket ban on CICA claims for those with convictions a breach of Human Rights?
Lawyers have pointed to scenarios such as a victim of sex abuse being denied compensation because of convictions against them linked directly to the abuse they have suffered and the psychological impact it had.
Other scenarios include that of a victim of assault being refused an award despite having only one conviction for a relatively minor offence, or for having unspent convictions which become spent during the course of a claim.
A number of cases have now been the subject of appeals to the CICA Tribunal on the basis that it is unfair to prevent an applicant access to compensation due to convictions (especially those which have nothing to do with the claim or happened prior to the applicant being injured).
A leading case was dismissed in November 2015 at Judicial Review which called into question the lawfulness of the CICA to apply the restrictions of the current scheme relating to convictions, whilst a further case – McNeice v CICA and Ministry of Justice  – again sought Judicial Review of the CICA’s refusal to compensate.
This also questioned the lawfulness of the CICA’s “blanket ban” on those with convictions and suggested the rule is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The matter was refused, however the applicant has since been given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the refusal, causing all other similar cases to the CICA Tribunal to be placed on hold pending the decision.
It is a situation our team is monitoring closely as if the decision is overturned it will have large implications for all current and future claims to be made to the CICA, and the many people who turn to us looking for legal support.