A decision to deny a man who was deliberately infected with HIV seems entirely unjust and highlights the need for an immediate revision of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) rules.
The Government scheme is in place to compensate innocent victims of crime for their suffering and loss and, in this case for which we have already advised people affected, the victim would have been entitled to compensation of around £22,000.
However, despite his obvious suffering at the hands of Edinburgh hairdresser Daryll Rowe – who was jailed for life earlier year for deliberately infecting men with HIV – he has been denied the compensation due to having an unspent conviction for taking part in an anti-austerity protest.
The man was sentenced for a criminal offence to 100 hours community service in 2012, three years before he became a victim of Rowe.
Under current CICA rules, people with recent or “unspent” criminal convictions cannot qualify for compensation payments.
It is an issue which has led to many lawyers calling for a change, particularly in scenarios such as this where the victim of such a serious crime is denied damages because they have a historic, minor offence still against their name.
Thankfully the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has already received some influential support.
Former UK Justice Secretary Lord Falconer is writing to the CICA urging them to rethink the decision to withhold compensation, calling it an ‘injustice’, ‘cruel’ and ‘wrong’. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice has also expressed sympathy and called Rowe’s actions a ‘repulsive crime’.
Many CICA claims are initially rejected but can be successful on appeal
In our work at Hudgell Solicitors representing hundreds of clients a year in making claims to the CICA, we see many cases which we believe fully meet the criteria for compensation which are initially refused, particularly since rules changed in 2012.
It is why we encourage people to enter the CICA process with the support of experienced CICA claims lawyers, as many often find the process difficult and are not aware of the appeal process, in which you can ask for a review of the decision by a different claims officer.
It is something our team have helped many with to reverse the original decision, and in some cases achieve increased settlement offers.
Although the CICA compensation scheme clearly sets out in its current rules that payments are reduced or refused if an applicant has an unspent conviction, we firmly believe that each case should be judged on its own merits, and reflect the suffering of the victim.
It is why we are committed to appealing on behalf of our clients and ensuring we provide full, experienced legal support to the very final stage. We won’t give up on our clients if we feel the scheme has not done as it should.
Although the CICA does an excellent job in providing much needed compensation for innocent victims of crime, there are equally many occasions where decisions are wrong, or the outdated rules, such as this one covering unspent crimes, prevent justice.
This includes situations such as victims of sex abuse being denied compensation because of convictions against them linked directly to the abuse they suffered and the psychological impact it had.
Lord Falconer has said that up to 400 people who had been victims of sex crime had been denied compensation under CICA rules and has called for it to be amended.
That is a view we would certainly support at Hudgell Solicitors, and with the matter to be considered at the Court of Appeal it is a situation we continue to watch closely.
In the meantime we will continue to ensure that the CICA does what it is in place to do – compensate innocent people who are victims of crime, even if that means contesting decisions and challenging rules which we feel prevent justice being served.