Matt Chappell is involved in criminal injury compensation research and writes for Pannone Law.
In what must be a great relief for victims of criminal injury, the government has withdrawn its plans to reduce the levels of available compensation as an increasing number of MPs appeared to disagree with the decision. Proposals had been made by the Ministry of Justice to reduce or even remove payments to those suffering ‘less serious’ injuries at the hands of criminals.
Unsurprisingly the proposed move was part of a cost-cutting exercise that was estimated to reduce the annual £449m bill by a sum of £50m. But can a price be put on the plight of innocent victims of crime, and how do you compassionately gauge who is worthy of compensation? With the government’s focus resting increasingly on cost-cutting, the situation poses the question – is there nowhere safe from financial scrutiny?
Comments have been made about the apparent heartlessness of the government decision, as Rob Flello (Shadow Justice Minister) stated:
“Even contemplating these cuts that would have affected innocent victims of crime shows this Tory-led government is out of touch.”
The twin goals of providingthe best possible support for victims of crime and restructuring the criminal injuries compensation scheme represent conflicting aims in an area that a majority of the populace would consider an essential social benefit.
This highlights the growing attitude that, in terms of budget cuts, problems that are seen as less significant are prime candidates for reassessment in the country’s struggle to regain financial stability. This highlights a move away from a ‘support for all’ culture and the gradual leaning towards a ‘if it’s bad enough or high profile enough – then you may receive support’ culture. Junior Justice Minister, Helen Grant, responded to criticism by stating: “We concluded that the scheme needed to focus resources on the victims who are most seriously affected by injuries that they suffer as a result of deliberate violent crime committed in England, Wales and Scotland.”
Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins, spoke out against the proposed cuts:
“No-one asks to be a victim of crime. Reducing, or removing altogether, the amount of compensation available to those people will send a clear message that the state does not view their injuries as serious or important… To withdraw compensation from these innocent victims of crime goes against the very purpose of criminal injuries compensation and ignores the view held by successive governments for decades that victims of violent crime deserve more than just words.”
What remains to be seen is whether the proposed changes are being reconsidered with a view to implementing a more agreeable solution – or whether a close eye should be paid to a ‘rebranding’ of policy that marks the move towards less compassionate stringency in lieu of more effective budget cuts.