Minister McEntee announces reforms to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme
- Amended Scheme will better serve vulnerable victims of crime in a more efficient and effective manner
- Further reforms will be brought forward by the end of the year
20 April 2021
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, T.D., today published the revised Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The revised Scheme has been informed by recommendations from officials of the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a long standing Scheme that provides compensation to victims of violent crime in the State. It has been in place since 1974 and up until now has only been revised once in 1986. The reforms are a key action in the Minister’s Justice Action Plan for 2021.
Minister 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.”
The Revised Scheme will:
- Provide for the doubling of the number of Tribunal members from 7 to 14, improving the efficiency of the Scheme and better serving victims with speedier processing and decision making.
- Provide 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 and currently is set at €35,000.
- Make 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, the revised Scheme provides that the Tribunal will be able to accept applications on an exceptional basis for up to two years after an incident. The two-year timeframe mirrors the statute of limitations in personal injury claims and takes account of the fact that most EU Member States have time limits on their Schemes.
- Updates the monetary limits, which have not been updated since the Scheme was originally introduced in 1974, in line with inflation. The minimum level of award payable under the Scheme is increased from £50 to €500 and the level of award which may be sanctioned by an authorised officer of the Tribunal is increased from £250 to €3000.
- Provides 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. This is in line with provisions in the Victims of Crime Act, 2017.
- In the interests of fairness, removes Paragraph 10 of the Scheme, which prevented awards being made where the crime was committed by a member of the same household.
In addition, the new Scheme removes the existing reference to awards being made on an ex-gratia basis, given that the Scheme is the means by which Ireland gives effect to EU Directive 2004/80/EC on compensation to victims of crime. It 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. This proposal is being brought forward with a view to ensuring improved governance in complex cases where large amounts of public funds are being awarded.
Minister McEntee concluded,
“Government has agreed in principle that the Scheme should now be operated on a statutory basis, and I will return to Government once the General Scheme of a Bill has been drafted.
“I have also asked that officials in my Department work with other relevant Government Departments and Agencies to examine the future management of the Scheme and whether one of the State bodies expert in personal injury assessment should be in charge of it”.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has said that Member States must ensure the financial viability of such Schemes, so an analysis will be undertaken on appropriate upper limits that could be introduced into the Scheme in respect of material and non-material losses. An analysis will also to be undertaken on the concept of non-material losses, as the current Scheme covers vouched out-of-pocket expenses only. These proposals will be brought to Government before year end.
Further reforms will also be informed by the work being undertaken by the Law Reform Commission under its Fifth Programme of Law Reform. The Commission’s focus on the victim experience in accessing compensation and improvements that could be introduced in that regard will be of particular value.
Further information including a copy of the revised Scheme and its application forms, can be found at the following link;
Notes for Editors
The Scheme is administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, established under paragraph 17 of the original Scheme. Following the conclusion of the previous Tribunal’s term of office ending on 31 December 2020, the Minister in February 2021, appointed a new Chair and 6 other members to the Tribunal for a 5 year period ending on 31 December 2025. An open recruitment and selection competition was held in 2020, arising out of which the new Tribunal was appointed. A panel has been put in place arising out of the competition from which future appointments may be made by the Minister.
The revised Scheme provides for a doubling of Tribunal Members. As Tribunal Members are required to be practising barristers and solicitors who provide services on a part-time basis and are paid on a fee basis for first instance decisions and appeal hearings, the doubling of membership is unlikely to result in significant increased costs.
Under the Scheme, compensation may be awarded by the Tribunal to victims of violent crime (or dependents of a victim in fatal cases) in the State in respect of vouched out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the victim. The Tribunal administers the Scheme with secretarial support provided by the Department of Justice in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in the Scheme. The Tribunal is independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications.
Last year €6.814m was awarded by the Tribunal to 113 persons and €3.068m was awarded to 80 persons in 2019. The Scheme is the mechanism by which Ireland gives effect to the EU Directive 2004/80/EC on compensation to victims of crime.
At the request of the Department, the Law Reform Commission (LRC) included a project examining the Scheme in its fifth work programme and has begun work in this regard. The Department will continue to liaise with the Commission in relation to the project.
Further information on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme can be found here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Criminal_Injuries_Compensation_Scheme