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Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I have already declared an interest in this matter. I have heard the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, and sympathise with his approach to the matter. He and I have had discussions with other members of the board over a considerable number of years and also with the Home Office and various junior Ministers to try to achieve some system that will do justice to the victim. That is what we are talking about. We are not talking about the technicalities of the system. The important person is the victim.
Having listened to what the noble Lord had to say, it occurs to me that one of the difficulties with his amendment might beI underline the words "might be"that once there is a band everyone goes for the top end of the band. Everyone thinks that they are severely shocked. If there is a band from £5,000 to £7,500, and the board member gives £5,000 that will almost inevitably be appealed on the basis that that person was more severely shocked than the board member thought and therefore he should receive £7,500.
I emphasise againsubject to anything my noble friend on the Front Bench might saythat there are great difficulties in the working of the scheme. If we are to have a scheme at all, it must reflect the interests of the victim. We cannot have a defined figure for child abuse. If, as I believe I said on Second Reading, some Members of the Committee were to visit and, with the permission of the victims of terrible abuse, listen to the horribleI really mean horribletales of sexual abuse, deprivation and all the rest of it which would not be believed if they were read about, then Members of the Committee would see how the system is supposed to work.
We are getting judicial intervention now. I have never seen a judge sitting with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to see how it works. Judicial review has become an industry, and that is wrong
We are not discussing the tariff scheme because that is a matter for another debate. The important thing isas I understand it, this is what the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, was sayingthat discretion has been removed, and the essence of justice is discretion. Once we remove discretion, we remove justice. We have members of the boardI kid you notsitting with large piles of blue bags each of which contains 20 cases resulting from the illegal actions of the Home Secretary. I am not making a political point, but that is the way life is. We are reviewing the cases, and it is astonishing to see some of the awards that were made and some that were not made. An element of discretion must be built into the system, however the Government intend to do it.
Perhaps I may make an important point in conclusion. One of the large areas is child sexual abuse. There is no time clock on the abuse of children. We know that because we see such situations day in and day out. It is sickening but we must deal with it. However, just to put down a tariff and say, as the noble Lord has already said, "Well, you give somebody £5,000 for that. That was too bad. But that is the way it happened", is not the way the system should operate.
From an examination of the files which we have to look at, it is also becoming patently clear that the tariff does not take into account the circumstances in which an assault takes place. It is all very well for an HEO in the Civil Service to press a button on the tariff scheme and say "Scarring", or whatever it might be, but that does not take into account the circumstances in which the assault takes place. We hear horrendous tales of assaults which have no long-term consequences, but the event is worth an award which is not given in the tariff scheme. Although we are both members of the board we are at one in believing that an element of discretion must be built into the scheme; otherwise it will act unfairly towards the most important peoplethe victims of violence in this country.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I too listened with deep attention and respect to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle. After all, he knows far more about the subject than almost any of us and certainly far more than I do. However, I suggest to him that my noble friend Lord Macaulay is right. The implications of allowing, as the noble Lord's amendments allow, for a band of compensation amounts across the board would be in the first instance that everyone would go for the top of the band. We would end up with a great many appeals and a great deal of additional expense. I urge the noble Lord to look at subsequent amendments which we have tabled and which address the points that he has so eloquently addressed. I hope that they deal with those points more precisely and more effectively.
The noble Lord talked about the differences between injuries to a young girl and to an older man. Our Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 allow for additional payments to be made, taking account of sex, of occupation and of dominance as between injuries to the
We have not specifically covered the point that the noble Lord made about scarring, which I acknowledge. However, in Amendments Nos. 28, 29 and 30 we have gone further than the noble Lord and have suggested that, in cases concerning the abuse of children, sexual abuse and shock, the tariff virtually gives up. That is particularly so in respect of shock where there is no definition but simply a footnote at the end of the tariff stating that such definitions are available pending the forthcoming Law Commission report.
I suggest to the noble Lord that by limiting the amendments to the point that we make in Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 and to the exclusion from the tariff altogether of shock, sexual abuse and the abuse of children, we are dealing more directly with the failings of the tariff system than he does in his amendments.
Baroness Blatch: I know how deeply my noble friend feels about this and I know that he speaks from considerable experience. Therefore, it is with diffidence that I take issue with him on his amendments.
Perhaps I may take the first proposed provision for compensation bands. That would undermine the whole rationale of the tariff system. In effect, it would reintroduce a common law damages scheme, which my noble friend has hinted he would prefer, with the associated delays and complexity. The whole point of a tariff system is that it provides a quicker, simpler and more transparent arrangement.
We have made the point on many occasions that there is no right or precise figure of compensation for a particular injury. We also believe that victims want their compensation as quickly as possible. Under the enhanced tariff scheme, therefore, we are no longer attempting to make finely judged assessments. Instead we are making a generous paymentbased on the board's own awardsin recognition of society's concern for the blameless victims of violent crime.
At the same time the tariff in its current draft form contains over 300 different injury descriptions. A more severe case of a particular injury can therefore be assigned the appropriate higher tariff amount. And where the injury is particularly severe, or its effects prolonged or severe, there are additional payments for loss of earnings and the costs of special care.
A further problem with a system of compensation bands, which was hinted at by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, is that since many claimants, quite understandably, would believe their cases to be exceptional there would probably be far more requests for review and appeals. I slightly argue that it would increase further the demands for reviews and appeals. And reviews and appeals would be longer and more complex. However, claimants will be able to appeal on the grounds that they believe that their injury should have been placed in a higher rated category.
As I said, these amendments would also provide for the tariff to define the harm done to the claimant in terms of the offence rather than the injury. However, we do not consider that this amendment is necessary since subsection (5) of Clause 2 already makes it clear that an injury may be described in the tariff in whatever way the Secretary of State considers appropriate. We take the view that this will permit reference to offences in so far as that may be necessary and, indeed, we do refer in the tariff to indecent assault. Perhaps I should explain that, as far as possible, we wish to avoid reference to specific offences in the tariff because this may produce uncertainty where the law differs between England and Wales on the one hand and Scotland on the other. Offences would have to be defined in terms of the relevant legislation, which can be complex and may differ for England and Wales. The use of such terms might also be confusing to claimants who may not understand the technicalitites of legal definitions.
The tariff, therefore, seeks to describe the injury, wherever possible, in terms of the harm done. Should the injury include mental or emotional harm serious enough to warrant compensation in its own right the tariff allows for that. And of course should it become apparent that the way in which a particular injury is described in the tariff requires amendment for whatever reason, the Bill gives the flexibility to do that. We are confident that in practice the tariff will be able to produce awards which reflect the range of injury and suffering of victims with, as I have said, the advantage of greater speed and simplicity.
The issue is important, but if we are to go for, on the one hand, the suggestion made by my noble friend in the particular amendments in front of us or the suggestion which was not defined but put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, that there should be some element of discretion, we believe that that flies in the face of what we are trying to do; that is, to produce a simple, understandable, transparent and speedy system of compensating people for injury when it has been caused by a criminal act.
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