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Victims of an assault or abuse need not always wait until criminal cases are complete to seek compensation

In our work representing innocent victims of crime and helping secure damages for the physical and psychological injuries they suffer as a result, we often find ourselves battling against tight time frames to ensure their cases are successful.

Through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), a government-run organisation which was set up in 1996 and is funded by the Ministry of Justice to provide compensation for blameless victims of crime, damages ranging from £1,000 to a maximum of £500,000 can be secured.

CICA rules on the timing of your application

The rules require an applicant to lodge their application within two years of the incident, and although there can be some discretion shown if there are extenuating circumstances for not doing so, particularly with abuse cases and violence which occurred whilst the applicant was a child, we have found this can bring difficulties for the people we represent.

As solicitors passionate about ‘seeing the person and not just the claim’, there is nothing more frustrating and disappointing to know a crime victim is deserving of, and qualifies for compensation, only to find their claim is ‘out of time’.

Of course, making a claim for damages is not always at front of mind for many when they have been the victim of a serious attack.

That is why we fight for those who we believe should be granted extensions when applicable, and why we often challenge decisions which we feel are not providing justice.

CICA claims and criminal investigations

Although CICA claims can be made when there has been no arrest or criminal court case pursued, the majority of clients we support find themselves at the centre of a police investigation as a victim, particularly if they have been subjected to a serious physical attack or abuse.

It is this daunting process which can at times cause problems in relation to CICA claims, as we have encountered an increasing number of cases where our clients have been under the impression, often from advice they are given from the police and CPS, they should not begin a CICA claim until all criminal court hearings have been completed.

This is completely wrong and can prove harmful to a claim which then runs beyond the two year time limit whilst the case passes through the criminal court system.

Of course, there are many sensitivities around criminal court hearings and police forces are quite right to do all they can to ensure nothing is done which could prevent justice being served.

Indeed, it is perhaps understandable that such requests be made to victims, as it protects them from being accused of chasing compensation before a criminal act has been proven to have happened.

Keeping records of any requests to delay start of CICA claims is crucial

From our point, however, we know the need to begin CICA claims proceedings as soon as possible, and certainly within the two year time period. If you are asked to delay a claim, we would suggest contacting an experienced solicitor for advice at this point.

Certainly we would advise that you record the details of the person asking you not to begin a CICA claim until a criminal investigation and court hearing has been concluded, and the date of the request being made. If at all possible please ask the person giving you this advice to put it in writing to you, this will ensure that there is clear evidence to provide to the CICA as to the reason for the delay in submitting the application.

In recent times we have represented people who have waited on advice, but have been unable to recall who asked them to do so, and when.

Finally, it is worth remembering that a CICA claim can be pursued even if there was never a criminal conviction, as the CICA makes decisions on the evidence it is provided on the ‘balance of probabilities’, and not ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ as in criminal cases.

Claims are pursued on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, so there’s no financial risk to you – and you won’t be under any obligation to continue after your free initial consultation.

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