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CICS – Criminal Injuries Compensation: Scheme or Sham?

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a government funded body which compensates innocent individuals who have been injured as a result of a violent crime.

If an individual has suffered an injury as a result of a road traffic accident or through an accident at work or in a public place compensation can be claimed by making a civil claim against the negligent party.

But, what happens if you have suffered injury as a result of a violent crime such as an assault or a rape? Rather than suing a particular defendant like in a civil claim, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is there to help individuals obtain compensation for their physical and/or mental injuries.

Claim to CICA for assault or rape

A claim will be considered by the CICA if the following criteria have been met; 1) the incident was reported to the police, 2) medical attention was sought, 3) the claimant did not cause or contribute to the incident and finally 4) the claim was brought within two years of the incident.

However, unlike with a civil claim, there is a cap of £500,000 in compensation that can be awarded to a claimant. The cap was put in place in 1996 and astonishingly has not been increased since. Accounting for inflation alone over the last 21 years, the cap should have been increased to £840,000. If we consider how the costs of living alone have increased so substantially over the last 20 years it really is quite surprising that the cap in compensation has remained the same.

Compensation through the CICA is assessed using a tariff system. Again, unlike with civil claims, the scheme does not compensate for more than three injuries. In cases of two or three injuries, 100% can be awarded for the most serious injury, 30% for the second injury and 15% for the third. The injuries also have to be sufficiently serious to merit the minimum payment of £1,000.

If a civil claim is made, claims are valued using case law and the Judicial Studies Guidelines which is similar to the tariff system but is far more comprehensive. Compensation can be claimed for every injury sustained. Whilst there may be an overlap in compensation with certain injuries i.e. back and neck injuries, there is no limit of the number of injuries which attract compensation.

CICA awards

If we take the example of a simple shoulder dislocation, through the CICA an individual may be awarded £3,500. This is compared to approximately £10,000 if a civil claim is made. In the most serious cases where special equipment is required such as wheelchairs and hoists, together with lifelong daily care and house adaptations, £500,000 will not go a very long way. In addition, if a family member has to give up work to care for the injured party, many individuals and families will really struggle to get by emotionally and physically but also financially as a result of the incredibly low compensation payments.

If compensation was awarded through a civil claim, an individual might be awarded an initial lump sum, which could be a sum larger amount than the total amount received in a CICA claim, followed by yearly periodic payments.

Even if the cap is increased to reflect inflation, the compensation payments still need to be reviewed. Unfortunately, even £840,000 will not be sufficient in some of the most serious cases. Whilst the government’s pot is not limitless, it must still be questioned as to why claims cannot be valued in the same way as civil claims. The current system does seem to make it rather unfair to those individuals who have been injured as a result of a violent crime.

The Association of Personal Injuries Lawyers (APIL) is pushing for a review and it can only be hoped that the compensation payments for vulnerable claimants following violent crimes will be properly addressed with a view to payments increasing.