Guest personal injury law blog post by Angela Fitzpatrick Head of personal injury Claim Today Solicitors.
Six months ago the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announced a review of the scheme that compensates people who suffer as a result of a crime. The MOJ presented it in a trivial way through the tabloid press. They highlighted sprained ankles as a typical example of the kind of injury that would no longer attract any financial recompense. The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said dismissively that, “sprained ankles, broken toes or bruised ribs from which people tend to recover fairly quickly will no longer be covered at all”. As so often before the government succeeded in demonising the victims of the cuts.
The current Criminal injuries compensation scheme system is tariff based which means that victims can only receive a certain amount depending on the severity of the injury. That tariff already does not reflect the true value of the effects of these injuries.
The MOJ finally released the results of their review at the beginning of July, this time they did so quietly without any press fanfare. There is a good reason for their circumspection because the changes are insidious.
All claims below a value of £2,500 will no longer be eligible for compensation. This means victims who have suffered injuries such as, permanent facial scaring ,partial loss of a finger as a result of an assault will in future have to make do with an apology and support from already under resourced crime support units.
Worse still are the plans to reduce the level of compensation available for all claims below the value of £11,000. This would include anyone who suffers serious facial disfigurement, loss of taste/smell fractured hip, a fractured skull to name only a few.
Apart from being morally repugnant reducing compensation for innocent victims of crime there is a practical consideration too. Reducing compensation for injured victims increases their suffering by reducing their ability to take time of work to recover sufficiently from their ordeal. It is something Ken Clarke skilfully avoided talking about when he originally announced the plans in January.
These cuts will also impinge on those who are there to protect the public. Police officers who place themselves at risk of injury every day they go on duty will be subject to the same limits on compensation. Good Samaritans who try to capture or assist police officers capture offenders will be penalised. At a time when police officer numbers are subject to savage cuts and crime figures are not falling, the innocent will be hit with a perfect storm of less security and less support when things go wrong. Last year’s riots were a stark reminder of the link between crimes against property and the person and a rise in unemployment.
Having represented innocent victims of crimes of violence for over 20 years I know that regardless of the level of injury being a victim of a crime can be a truly harrowing experience. It is only right that those affected are allowed to bring a valid claim for redress. Cutting the compensation is cutting access to justice. Support should be in addition not instead of compensation. Who really are the losers of these changes? They are the innocent victims of crime including the brave members of our emergency services all of whom need and deserve better. An urgent rethink is needed.
Guest post by Angela Fitzpatrick Head of personal injury Claim Today Solicitors.