How can my conduct or previous convictions affect my Criminal Injuries Compensation claim?
ARTICLE BY: Daryl Smith
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) consistently makes clear what the purpose of its existence is – To compensate innocent victims of violent crime in England, Scotland or Wales. While this may seem fairly cut and dry, the CICA’s perception of an ‘innocent victim’ may be different to that of yours.
The word innocent is defined as ‘not being responsible for or directly involved in an event yet suffering its consequences’. So, for example, why was it that survivors of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham were denied compensation? The rejection of their remuneration sprang from their previous unspent convictions obtained when they had been exploited and coerced into criminal activity by grooming gangs.[i] Under Annex D of their Scheme, the CICA have a discretional ability to reduce or withhold an award if an applicant has a minor unspent conviction (such as a fine) and they will refuse to entertain any claim from an applicant with an unspent conviction involving a sentence (such as a custodial sentence, community order or a youth rehabilitation order).
More often than not, a minor unspent conviction will see an outright refusal to continue a claim and a reduction is fairly rare. Each conviction comes with its own rehabilitation period and as such, specific advice on each case is recommended however we have compiled a Q&A based on the most common questions our clients have on how the CICA deal with unspent convictions and conduct during an incident.
Will my conduct during the incident affect my compensation?
The Scheme explains that ‘an award may be withheld or reduced where the conduct of the applicant before, during or after the incident giving rise to the criminal injury makes it inappropriate to make an award or a full award. For this purpose, conduct does not include intoxication through alcohol or drugs to the extent that such intoxication made the applicant more vulnerable to becoming a victim of a crime of violence.’
This is usually easy to address. If you believe you started or directly contributed to an incident that caused you injury, for example you were involved a fight, it is extremely likely that the CICA will, at the very least, reduce any potential award you may be entitled to. It is noted that being intoxicated is not a method of contributing to your incident however your conduct while drunk can still be taken into account.
I have a previous conviction; can I still claim?
As mentioned above, the level of the conviction is vital as each conviction has its own rehabilitation period. A few examples; caution/warning is spent immediately, a fine is spent after 12 months of the conviction, a community order is spent 12 months after the end of the order and a custodial sentence can be spent anytime from up to 2 years after the sentence finishes, to never.
I received a conviction during my claim, will this affect anything?
The CICA Scheme states that the rules above ‘also apply in relation to an applicant who after the date of application but before the date of its final determination is convicted of an offence which is not immediately spent.’
How do the CICA decide the level of reduction of my award?
The CICA work on a 10-point penalty system, each point equaling a 10% deduction. While it isn’t specifically noted what each point represents, they note that their decision is influenced by time elapsed and severity. The more recent the conviction and the more serious the sentence, the more penalty points will be accumulated. Although the CICA claim the penalty points system improves consistency in their decision making, they are not bound to follow it. They tend to make a greater or lesser reduction based on the facts of the case.
I’ve only received a caution/warning, does this mean my award will not be reduced or withheld?
Not necessarily. The CICA also have the power to reduce or withhold an award on the basis of an individual’s character. They will consider any involvement in illegal drugs or crime, tax evasion or benefit fraud, antisocial behaviour orders and simple cautions or reprimands. If they deem that any previous evidence of your character makes it inappropriate to compensate you in full for your injuries, they are able to apply reductions as they feel fit.
What if I felt their assessment of my previous convictions/character/conduct was unfair?
If you disagree with the level of compensation you have been awarded or the rejection you have received, you have 56 days to give your reasons and apply for the CICA to review your claim. This review decision can result in a higher fee being awarded however it is important to note that the CICA may also decide to keep their original decision or even apply a further reduction to your award.
If you disagree with the review decision you are able to take this one step further and appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal. The members of the First-Tier Tribunal are completely independent to the CICA and will consider the entire claim, noting both your side and that of the CICA.
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