Release solicitor Kirstie Douse answers your legal questions in her regular Legal Line column
Last year I was violently attacked on my way home from work. I had to have a number of operations on my face and still have visible scars. I am also psychologically affected – I can’t work, only leave the house if I have to, and suffer from nightmares. I made a criminal injuries application but have been refused because I have criminal convictions. It doesn’t seem fair that I can’t get any compensation because of things I’ve done in my past.
This must have been a very distressing experience, and obviously continues to be so. You were right to make an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
In assessing a claim, CICA consider a number of different factors about the incident itself and the person applying for compensation. Unfortunately one of the things they are able to take into account is the character of the applicant, with reference to previous criminal convictions. This does not seem fair, and CICA do not offer any explanation about why they do this. Legal challenges to this have failed in the past. However, they cannot simply make a blanket refusal based on the fact that someone has criminal convictions, and they can only have regard to unspent convictions. Each case must be looked at on its own merits.
CICA operate a penalty point system which allocates a specified number of points to a conviction according to what sentence was given and the time that has passed between the date of sentence and the date of the application. The total number of penalty points is then used to reduce an award by between 10 per cent (1 point) and 100 per cent (10 points). Sentences of 30 months or more in prison will never become spent and attract 10 points. Tactically it is sometimes possible to delay an application to minimise the reduction applied, especially as there is a two-year period to apply from the incident date.
You should check the guidance in relation to this – at bit.ly/SlUNuT – and make sure that the calculations have been made correctly. If not, then you should request a review of the decision not to make any award because it was reached incorrectly. Even if the calculation is correct, you can still request a review on the basis that there are exceptional circumstances present in your case and discretion should be exercised to make an award (even if that is reduced in some way). If you are still unhappy with the decision after review, you can appeal the decision to the Tribunal Service – they are completely independent of CICA. Unfortunately it is often difficult to find free representation for these sorts of cases, though you may be able to get some assistance from a local law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.
For more information about this issue please contact the Release legal helpline on 0845 4500 215.
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