The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal will double in size as part of landmark reforms aimed at better serving victims of violent crimes.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was introduced in 1974 and has only been revised once, in 1986. The new changes have been described as a “first step” on the road of reform, which will later involve legislative change.
The revisions include the doubling of the number of tribunal members from seven to 14, intended to allow for speedier processing and decision-making.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “While the criminal injuries scheme serves a valuable purpose, it has become clear that the scheme is in need of reform.
“The government recently approved a revised scheme which will better serve victims of crime who have sustained a personal injury as a result of a violent crime.
“The revised scheme represents a first step in terms of the reforms needed, and further reforms will be brought to government by the end of the year.”
Other changes to be introduced in the revised scheme include:
- An explicit provision that the solatium (a payment in respect of mental distress) may be awarded to dependants of fatally injured victims of crime. The solatium is provided for under section 49 of the Civil Liabilities Act 1961 and currently is set at €35,000.
- Making applicants explicitly aware that decisions of the Tribunal, appropriately redacted to remove personal data, may be made publicly available. This will give effect to a recent court judgment that indicated applicants should have access to past decisions in certain instances
- Notwithstanding the three-month limit for the submission of applications, provisions that the Tribunal will be able to accept applications on an exceptional basis for up to two years after an incident, mirroring the statute of limitations in personal injury claims.
- Updated monetary limits to take account of inflation, increasing the minimum level of award payable from £50 to €500 and the level of award which may be sanctioned by an authorised officer of the Tribunal from £250 to €3,000.
- Providing that the crime can be reported to either the gardaí or the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission where it involves an alleged crime committed by a member of An Garda Síochána, in line with provisions in the Victims of Crime Act 2017.
- Removing paragraph 10 of the scheme, which prevented awards being made where the crime was committed by a member of the same household.
The revised scheme removes the reference to awards being made on an ex gratia basis, given that the scheme gives effect to EU Directive 2004/80/EC on compensation to victims of crime.
It also provides that decisions of first instance on potentially large award cases (potential awards of €75,000 or more) are in future to be decided at first instance by three tribunal members, rather than one as is the current arrangement.
Further down the line, legislation will be introduced to place the scheme on a statutory basis. Further research will be completed by the end of the year on the concept of non-material losses, as the current scheme covers vouched out-of-pocket expenses only.
Source: Irish Legal News