Being a victim of crime can be incredibly distressing. The trauma can cause real and lasting damage to a person’s life. It can take time to recover, and often there’s material consequences that make that task all the harder. Criminal injury can hit us like a bolt out of the blue. Few people are prepared for it and as a result the consequences can be severe.
If you’re a victim of violent crime through no fault of your own, you have every right to claim compensation.
What is criminal injury?
Many people who find themselves a victim of crime, reporting the incident to the police or even securing a conviction do not go far enough in remedying the crime. Some injuries are so severe they can have radical consequences for our working life, or adaptations may need to be made in our homes. Psychological damage can impact our lives in a myriad of ways, reduce our earning power and radically diminish our quality of life.
Living with a criminal injury can be extremely difficult for ourselves and our loved ones. Society recognises that when someone has been injured during a criminal incident through no fault of their own, they should be given some form of redress beyond the criminal justice system.
What is the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme?
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme exists to enable victims of violent crime to rebuild their lives. It’s managed in the UK by the
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)
. The rules of the scheme and the value of payments awarded are set by parliament. The level of payment is set by a tariff of injuries.
The scheme can award sums of between £1,000 and £500,000 to victims of violent crime, even if the perpetrator is neither caught nor convicted. The amount awarded is dependent on the seriousness of an individual’s injuries. Although no amount of money can entirely compensate for the damage done by a criminal injury, it’s a tangible reflection of society’s concern for the future welfare of victims of violent crime.
What kinds of criminal injury are there?
As well as mental and physical injuries, CICA claims can be considered if you have suffered the following injuries:
- Loss of earning because of your injuries
- Physical or sexual abuse
- A fatality caused by violent crime, including bereavement payments, payments for loss of parental services, financial dependency, and funeral payments.
You can make a criminal injury claim directly against your attacker, but any ensuing criminal injury judgement may be difficult to enforce. The attacker may not have the financial resources to pay compensation, and if they are in prison, they would no longer be liable.
It’s also possible to make compensation claims against an employer if you become a victim of violent crime as part of your work. This would mean arguing that the employer failed to take adequate precautions to prevent the risk of criminal injury.
What are the eligibility rules?
To be eligible you must be a direct victim of a crime that took place in England, Scotland, or Wales. You should also have reported the incident to the police within a reasonable time.
All reasonable steps need to be taken to cooperate with the police and criminal justice system. An individual’s behaviour before, during, and after the incident can jeopardise an application, where such behaviour makes it inappropriate for a claimant to receive an award, or an award in full. If an applicant has previous convictions these can sometimes prevent a claim from being successful. Sometimes, particularly in domestic proceedings, a victim may withdraw their statement, or refuse to testify in criminal proceedings. This unfortunately means their application will not be considered. Therefore, it’s important to engage with the criminal justice system as much as possible.
An application needs to be submitted within two years of the incident taking place.
What proof would I need to make a criminal injury claim?
There’s a variety of evidence you’ll need to provide to make a criminal injury claim. Specifically, you’ll need to provide evidence of the following:
- Residency – you will need to provide evidence that you meet the residency requirements. To meet the residence criteria, you will need to have been ordinarily resident in the UK on the date the incident occurred.
- Medical evidence – you will need to provide medical evidence of any injuries you have incurred. If your injuries are complex or have resulted in mental illness, the evidence required may need to be more detailed. It’s possible that you may be asked to have an appointment with a medical specialist to provide any extra evidence needed.
- Loss of earnings – you will need to provide evidence of any loss of earnings that have resulted from your criminal injury. These might include P60s, payslips, or the formal offer of a job which you were unable to take up because of your injury. If you’re self-employed, this might include your tax return.
The application process
The scheme is intended to be one of last resort. If an opportunity exists to pursue compensation through other means, then you should do so. You will be expected to apply for any applicable insurance payments, social security payments, damages, or compensation to which you may be entitled as a result of your injuries. You may be asked to provide evidence that:
- You have considered the possibility of claiming compensation from your assailant and have pursued this if there was a reasonable chance of success.
- You have asked your employer about any damages or insurance payments that you may be entitled to.
- You have applied for any benefits for which you are entitled.
Any application will be delayed until all the necessary evidence is provided, and you must keep CICA informed about the progress of any other compensation, damages or social security payments that you’ve made.
You may still be eligible for a payment under the scheme even if you don’t know the identity of your assailant, or they have not been convicted.
Time limits for applying
You must apply as soon as it’s practicable for you to do so. If you were an adult, an application must be made within two years of the incident taking place. Special provision is made in the scheme for applicants who were under the age of 18 at the time of the incident.
For adults, the two-year time limit can be extended if there were exceptional circumstances that made it impossible for you to make a claim any earlier. If you wish to make a claim beyond two years after the incident, then sufficient evidence will need to be provided to show why any claim has been delayed.
You don’t have to wait until there is a verdict in any criminal case related to the incident before making an application. CICA will make their own judgement, based on ‘a balance of probabilities’, if there is already enough evidence to make a judgement on the strength of your claim.
If your injuries are not extensive enough to qualify for criminal injuries compensation, but have still resulted in hardship for you and your loved ones then you may qualify for a payment from the government Hardship Fund. This provides temporary relief for very low paid workers who are temporarily unable to work due to a criminal injury. You can apply if you:
- earn less than £111 a week
- don’t get Statutory Sick Pay or have access to an equivalent sick pay scheme run by your employer
- don’t have any unspent convictions that resulted in a custodial sentence or a community order
You should report your injuries within 48 hours of the incident and apply to the CICA for Hardship Fund payments within 8 weeks of the crime. Applications are made via Victim Support.
Here to help
The process of making a claim for criminal injury may seem a little confusing or complicated. It is in fact, relatively straightforward but it’s important to ensure you have all the necessary evidence needed to make a successful application.
An experienced criminal injuries solicitor can advise you about the likelihood of success for your claim, how to go about making it, and can provide support throughout the process.
Contact Mark Reynolds Solicitors today to find out how we can help you receive the compensation you deserve.