We have previously looked at the mechanics of the Criminal Injuries Scheme. Recently we at Emmott Snell Solicitors have been reminded of its importance to victims who have no other form of redress open to them. It is hoped that the case study below will encourage those who are considering making applications to the CICA to go forward with this.
Who are the CICA?
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (‘CICA’) is a government-funded body who compensates eligible victims of violent and sexual crime. Victims can claim compensation for physical and psychological injuries and in some cases financial expenses. For many victims of physical and sexual abuse where the abuser is no longer alive or does not have enough money or assets to compensate the victim and there is no organization to claim against, the CICA scheme is the only form of redress. The CICA assesses all applications and if successful, an applicant will receive an award of compensation.
There is no doubt that the CICA scheme is restrictive and can be difficult to navigate. There are many rules, hurdles, and time limits which an applicant has to satisfy to be successful in their application.
Summary of the CICA rules
To be eligible for an award of compensation, you must have been the victim of a violent crime and the application must reach the CICA within two years of the crime taking place. The CICA recognizes that this may not be possible in cases involving child abuse and that many victims are unable to talk about what happened to them until they are adults. The CICA rules state that if the crime was committed when you were a child (under the age of 18) and the incident was reported to the police before your 18th birthday, and no one made a claim for you, then the application must be received by the CICA by your 20th birthday.
If you suffered injury as a child and the incident was reported to the police on or after your 18th birthday, the application must be received by the CICA within two years of reporting to the police.
Whilst the CICA has some discretion to waive the time limit, they will only do so where it is found that the application could not have been made earlier due to exceptional circumstances and that the evidence provided in support of the application is sufficient in that a decision can be made without any further enquiries.
In addition to an award of compensation, the CICA will also consider other out-of-pocket financial expenses including loss of earnings, care, and treatment costs. It is likely that the CICA will ask for medical and financial information to assist them with assessing an application, particularly if the injuries are complex (including psychological) and financial expenses are being claimed.
The CICA can reduce or refuse awards on the basis of the applicant’s character. When considering this the CICA will take into account any criminal convictions and involvement in tax evasion or benefit fraud.
It is possible to apply to the CICA and to make a civil claim in tandem. However, if an applicant is successful in a civil claim, they will be required to return the CICA award. This is because a person is not allowed to be compensated twice for the same injury/incident and commonly known as the rule of double recovery.
Ms X suffered horrific physical and sexual abuse as a child by her father over a 5/7-year period. Her father told her that he would kill her mother if she told anyone. It was not until she was in her twenties that Ms X found the strength and courage to report her father to the police. During the police investigation, the police failed to conduct a number of important enquiries and to take witness statements from key witnesses and a decision was made not to take any further action against her father. Ms X re-reported the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father to the police in 2015. By this time key witnesses had passed away and evidence obtained in the earlier investigation lost and therefore once again no further action was taken. Ms X’s father was a man of limited means, and a civil claim was not possible. The only option for Ms X was to make an application to the CICA for an award of compensation. Ms X was supported by an ISVA who signposted her to this firm to assist her with making an application to the CICA.
As an adult, Ms X suffered significant mental health problems and had been involved with mental health services for some time including spending some time as an inpatient in specialist units. In addition, she suffered with trust issues particularly with males and those in authority making it difficult for her to find and maintain employment.
Emmott Snell Solicitors submitted an application to the CICA on behalf of Ms X which included a claim for loss of earnings. The CICA were provided with copies of Ms X’s medical and financial records in support of her application.
The CICA rejected Ms X’s application on the basis of character alleging that there were inconsistencies in her records as evidence of this. Understandably Ms X was angry at the CICA decision feeling that once again she had been let down by another authority. Emmott Snell Solicitors challenged the CICA’s interpretation of the records that had been provided to them. The CICA conceded that they had erred in their interpretation of some of the records but maintained their decision to refuse an award of compensation was correct.
Emmott Snell Solicitors made extensive enquiries and collated a bundle of evidence in support of Ms X’s application including a detailed statement on behalf of Ms X. Following a review of their decision the CICA made Ms X a significant six-figure sum of compensation. Ms X was delighted with the outcome. It is hoped that the CICA award will not only assist Ms X with accessing any treatment she may need but give her some financial security/peace of mind and an acknowledgment of the abuse/trauma she suffered as a child.
Whilst the CICA scheme is at times frustrating, Ms X’s account is a reminder of the importance of the scheme and in particular to those victims who have no other avenue of redress.