Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Victim Support (ASB 59)

The following is Adam Pemberton’s (Victim Support Assistant Chief Executive) written response to the questions asked by Bridget Phillipson MP (Houghton and Sunderland South) at the Public Bill Committee oral evidence session on the Anti-social Behavior, Crime and Policing Bill on 20 June 2013.

About Victim Support: We are the national charity giving free and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family, friends and anyone else affected across England and Wales. We also speak out as a national voice for victims and witnesses and campaign for change. We have offices throughout England and Wales and we run the Witness Service in every criminal court.

Q. How would you judge the impact that is likely to result from the cuts to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, in terms of how victims might feel about that, as well as the impact on the work of Victim Support in supporting people to make claims where eligible under the scheme?  

1.1. In our response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation, Getting it Right for Victims and Witnesses, Victim Support agreed that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was in need of reform to make it both financially stable, more efficient and to help ensure that victims get compensation more quickly. We accepted that some changes to awards may be necessary. Whilst we did not support every detail of the proposed reforms, we welcomed the decision to protect compensation payments for victims of the most serious crimes, as well as all victims of sexual offences.

1.2. At present, victims of crime wait too long to receive compensation. A Parliamentary Question in 2010 revealed that of the total live caseload for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (i.e. cases where an award was pending, even if was not due for payment yet), 32% had been in the system for over a year, and 14% for over two years. Much of the reason for the delay in making awards is due to persistent underfunding of the scheme. Reforms to the scheme were needed to ensure that it is placed on a firm financial footing for the future.

1.3. Victim Support welcomed the launch of the hardship fund in November 2012. This scheme is vital for those in urgent need and nowhere else to turn. Victims highly value the practical support we can give, and every year we help around 30,000 to claim criminal injuries compensation. Victim Support will continue to provide support to those victims who are eligible to make a claim by helping them to apply and representing them through the application process if required. For those victims who are no longer eligible for compensation, we will work with them to identify what other methods of support may assist their recovery, recognising that compensation is not always the route that most helps victims cope in the aftermath of crime.

Q. I had a couple of cases, when the scheme was operating as previously, involving dangerous dogs and dog attacks, where victims’ families had sought to make claims for criminal injuries compensation. However, because the law is a bit unclear in that area, it was leading to some confusion about the claim for compensation, with the guidance under the scheme. Do you think that greater clarity is needed in the legislation on dangerous dogs, and might that help victims?  

1.4. Where possible, clarity should always be provided to victims and their families when enquiring about Criminal Injuries Compensation claims. Victims of dangerous dog attacks and indeed other serious offences should be made immediately aware of the eligibility criteria under the Scheme. The Scheme now appears to provide more clarity on the eligibility of those who can and cannot receive compensation for dangerous dog attacks (the scheme states that victims will not be allowed to claim for injuries which "resulted from an animal attack, unless the animal was used with intent to cause injury to a person").

1.5. Although limiting the eligibility for dangerous dog attacks is likely to reduce the number of victims who can claim, Victim Support hopes that this will help to reduce the stress and inconvenience caused to those victims who have, in the past, made an unsuccessful claim or whose cases have taken an unreasonable length of time to result in compensation.

July 2013

Prepared 17th July 2013