Compensation for Victims of Crime
You may claim criminal injury compensation if you have suffered an injury, physical or psychological, because of an attack of criminal intent.
If a relative was fatally injured by a criminal attack you can also claim. Other types of claim include funeral expenses, income loss and special expenses.
When can a criminal injury compensation claim be made?
Generally you have two years after the injury was suffered to lodge a compensation appeal with CICA (Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority), however this may be wavered in special circumstances such as an adult claiming for abuse they suffered as a child.
Where can a claim be made?
CICA’s jurisdiction covers the three countries of Great Britain, England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland has its own scheme. There are similar compensation bodies in all European Union states and around the world in many others including the US, Australia and Canada. For a full list see the criminal injury compensation abroad section.
Who can help me with my claim?
The Police - It is necessary in almost all cases of criminal injury compensation to have informed the police of the offence that caused the incident. The first thing that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) will do upon receiving your application is to contact the police to verify that you were injured by a criminal act.
CICA – or the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is the body that cover most criminal compensation claims in Great Britain. To apply for compensation go to their website where you can fill out a form online, print one out, or request one by phoning: 0800 358 3601
How much compensation can I get for a criminal injury?
Compensation awards – your injuries must be serious enough to warrant over £1,000 in compensation, and the maximum award is £250,000; this includes claims for multiple injuries. However, income loss and special expenses can boost the award to £500,000. Most injuries carry a fixed bracket from within which CICA will take the figure that represents the amount of money you will receive in compensation.
Cost – CICA do not pay legal fees should you require their accumulation; the same is true for most other countries. A 'contingency fee arrangement' may be made with a lawyer, however, which sees them taking a percentage of the compensation if successful.
Preparing for a criminal injury claim
If you are the victim of a criminal injury then there are certain steps that you should take before you even consider a claim for compensation:
- Inform the police – any claim for compensation will begin with a request for the crime reference number, so if one cannot be provided it may be difficult to prove that an offence was actually committed. Your compensation may also be reduced if you delay in reporting the incident to the police.
- Assist in the criminal prosecution of the offender – if you wish to make a claim for compensation it is likely that you will also want to see justice done and see the criminal get their punishment, as well as receive compensation for the injury you suffered. Your compensation may also be reduced if you do not cooperate with the police.
- Inform those in authority if it is not practical to tell the police – for example, a prison inmate who is assaulted by a fellow prisoner should inform the prison authorities, it is obviously not possible for a prisoner to either ring or visit a police station whilst serving their time. Your compensation may also be reduced if you delay telling someone in authority.
To aid the prosecution of the criminal and your case for compensation there are several advisable things for you to do.
- Take the contact details of any witnesses to the crime.
- Go to the hospital or your G.P. and let a medical professional treat your injury. Even if no qualified medical treatment is necessary, the doctor you see will record your injuries; this could be helpful to a compensation claim.
- If symptoms that weren’t evident originally begin to make themselves shown in the aftermath, seek medical assistance. Internal injuries may not be immediately apparent, shock can hide symptoms and psychological injury can take time to manifest.
- Keep a dated record of your physical and psychological symptoms.
- Request and retain receipts for any medical expenses that you may have to spend. You might be able to claim these back if your compensation claim is successful.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a non-departmental public body, and is part of the Ministry of Justice. It is the institution that deals with criminal injury claims, and to claim compensation for a criminal injury you generally have to go through this body.
The way to form a claim
To claim compensation for a criminal injury you generally have to go through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). You can begin the process in one of three ways; online at their website, via post (you can either get a form printed from their website or sent to you by post by phoning 0800 358 3601), or with the help of Victim Support.
There are certain criteria that need to be fulfilled if you are going to make a compensation claim:
- Your injuries must be serious enough to meet the minimum compensation award of £1,000.
- You must have been injured in England, Scotland or Wales.
- You must make your application within two years of the incident, unless it was reasonable that you abstained for so long; for example, if you were abused as a child.
There are 4 types of compensation that you can claim for:
- Criminal injury compensation – this provides for damages, or what CICA call the 'tariff award'. You can only apply for this if you yourself suffered injuries, your child who is under 18 suffered the injuries, or someone who is mentally incapable of applying for themself was injured.
- A loved one was fatally injured by criminal injury – if your parent, child, husband, wife, partner, or if you were financially dependent on the person who was killed you may be able to apply for this (currently £11,000 if one person applies, or £5,500 each if two). Funeral expense can also be claimed.
Note - The following 2 can only be applied for if you also get the criminal injury compensation awarded.
- Income loss - if you lose the ability to earn an income for over 28 weeks because of your injuries then you can claim for this; payment begins in the 29th week.
- Special expenses – this can provide for medical expenses for treatment not covered by the NHS, for costs of residential care homes or for special adaptations in you require to your home.
Application forms are available in many languages including: Arabic, Punjabi, Bengali, Somali, Chinese, Turkish, Gujarati, Urdu, Greek, Vietnamese, Hindi and Welsh.
Other routes for claiming compensation
There are two other ways than through CICA for claiming compensation for a criminal injury. These are:
- Trespass to the person – assault, and battery are the kinds of acts that constitute trespass to the person, if this is the case you can also claim for compensation through the courts.
- Compensation order – during prosecution you can request that the person who caused you injury be made to pay you compensation.
These two methods are generally not used; the success of them both depends on the inability of the offender to pay compensation out of his own pocket.
Do I need a lawyer?
It is not necessary to employ a lawyer when claiming compensation for a criminal injury. The way the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA) operates makes it easy to apply with no qualified legal assistance. By simply using the guidance detailed on this website, following their instructions and filling in the form you can be on your way to receiving a compensation award. CICA also include on their website a pdf file containing an exhaustive detailing of every aspect of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, application forms in many different languages and help if you are a victim of a high-profile large scale criminal offence such as the July 7th 2005 Bombings in London, or the Cumbria Shootings of 2010.
Representation from criminal injury lawyers
If, however, you are rejected or want to contest your award at a tribunal it is recommended that you use the help of a lawyer, as strong advocacy skills will certainly be of benefit at this stage. The most effective kind of lawyer for criminal injury claims is a personal injury lawyer; there is no specially accredited panel for criminal compensation lawyers (the Law Society Personal Injury Panel is the closest). Criminal lawyers are specialists in criminal trials and so are not the best option for a compensation claim.
Claims relating to crimes overseas
The jurisdiction of the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA) extends only as far as the borders of Great Britain, so if you were the victim of a criminal injury outside of England, Scotland or Wales (Northern Ireland has its own compensation system) and wish to claim, you must do it by going down different channels. The same general steps should be taken if you suffer an injury in any foreign country — you should report the incident to the police and medical authorities as failure to do so can cause difficulties when trying to claim compensation.
Criminal injury claims in European Union states
European law states that all EU member states must have a criminal compensation scheme in place, which will be similar to CICA. CICA can help you with the process of claiming in an EU country — they have a specialist department called the EU Compensation Assistance Team (EUCAT) who should be contacted if you feel that you need any help when claiming for an injury sustained in an EU country.
Criminal injury claims in non-EU states
Several non-European Union states have authorities through whom it is possible to claim compensation from for criminal injury, as of 2010 the US Office for Victims of Crimes lists these as: Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Colombia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.
Criminal injury compensation amounts
Each kind of physical or psychological injury you can suffer has a set maximum fee that you can receive.
The severity of your injury, the effect it has had upon you and the discretion of the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA) in relation to those things will determine how close to the maximum your compensation will be.
The minimum amount of compensation that CICA can award is £1,000. This can be arrived at by multiplying the compensation of several small injuries or if a single injury overreaches that threshold.
The maximum amount of compensation awarded for damages is £250,000.
The maximum amount of compensation you can receive for lost income is £250,000. The total may not exceed £500,000.
If the compensation is for a person under 18 years of age then the money will be deposited in a savings account and only accessible upon their reaching the age of 18.
Calculation of compensation for multiple injuries
If you have sustained multiple injuries then CICA can only consider awarding compensation for the three most damaging only. The total compensation you will receive is not based on a sum of what the three injuries are worth individually. Instead CICA will add together the full amount of the worst injury, 30% of the second worst injury, and 15% of the third worst injury and arrive at a total this way.
Claiming in event of a death
To be able to claim compensation when someone is killed as a result of a criminal act you must be related to the deceased in one of these ways: wife, husband or partner; former wife, husband or partner; biological parent; child; or an unmarried partner who has been living with the deceased for at least 2 years before.
The total amount you can be awarded is £11,000. If there are two or more claimants then this fee is £5,500 each.
Further expenses that can be claimed are funeral costs, expenses if you were financially dependent on the deceased, and loss of parental financial help. If you are under 18 and your parent is deceased as a result of a criminal injury you can also claim financial help, which currently stands at £2000 per year.
The effect of criminal convictions on your compensation claim
If you have criminal convictions previous or subsequent to the incident for which you are attempting to claim compensation then this could impact upon the amount you are awarded. A criminal conviction that carried a sentence of over 30 weeks in jail could result in your compensation claim being rejected. There are no rules regarding this, however, and it is down to the discretion of CICA.
Claims where there is no criminal conviction
It is not an absolute necessity for the person who injured you to be actually convicted of the crime in which you were harmed in order for you to claim compensation.
The following are the scenarios that are likely to arise in which there is no conviction but you can still claim compensation:
- Unidentified offender – if the identity of the offender is not known or if they got away and cannot be traced by the police, then there is absolutely no reason, should your claim be truthful, that you cannot claim compensation.
- Insufficient evidence – it is possible that the Crown Prosecution Service will decide that there is not enough evidence for a prosecution to be successful in court. In this case they will not deem it prudent to use public funds in a case that they do not see as having any chance of success. This could occur for many reasons — perhaps witnesses refuse to testify or there is confusion over who actually caused the injury and no definitive route to proof. If the injury is veracious then there is nothing stopping you from claiming compensation.
- Unsuccessful prosecution – if the prosecution is brought before the courts but a verdict of not guilty is returned, then you can still attempt to claim for compensation. However, the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA) will be allowed to look at the evidence of the trial when deciding upon your case, though this does not mean that you cannot try.
It is entirely possible for a criminal compensation claim to succeed even if a suspect for the crime is found not guilty at trial. One of the main reasons for this is because the balances on which the guilty/not guilty and compensation/no compensation outcome pivot are weighted differently.
For a criminal conviction the decision as to whether guilt is ascribed or not rests on the phrase ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. This means that if there is any doubt in the minds of the jurists that the accused is not guilty then that is the verdict that they should return. It is guided by a conviction which holds personal liberty in pre-eminence; that, in an imperfect world, it is preferable that some who are guilty should go free, rather than one who is innocent being shackled.
For CICA to award criminal compensation, the claimant need only show that its own favour in the ‘balance of possibilities’ is the greater. This means that if it is more probable than not that the accused injured the claimant then compensation can be awarded. A compensation claim being paid out incorrectly is obviously a far less weighty scenario than an innocent person being punished for a crime they did not commit - in fact, the injustice here would be a person who was injured by a criminal being refused compensation - so the requirements for proof are less stringent here.
It is obviously much easier to satiate the 'balance of possibilities' than to establish something 'beyond reasonable doubt' — this is why a criminal compensation claim may still succeed through the accused was found to be innocent.
The criminal injury claim process
Most criminal injury compensation claims are dealt with by the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA). Once you have sent your application form to them this is the process that ensues.
- Acknowledgement – CICA will send you a personal reference number that applies to your claim; this is a receipt acknowledging your claim and will also help to speedily identify your case if you need to contact them.
- Further details – this only applies if you did not include all the necessary information on the application form — CICA will return the form and you will need to give any absent information.
- Contact the police – CICA will proceed to contact the police about the incident that caused your injury. They must do this to confirm that your claim is genuine and that you were injured due to a criminal offence.
- Contact any relevant medical, or other, authorities – if they need to, CICA will contact the medical authority that treated you for your injury, which will help confirm the eligibility of your claim and assist in determining the magnitude of the compensation award.
- Confirmation of acceptance – usually within two weeks of receiving the police report CICA will be able to write to you confirming that your compensation claim has been accepted and that they can proceed in determining your final award.
- Criminal trial? – if the offender who caused your injury is on, or awaiting trial, then CICA must halt the process temporarily until the fate of the accused is decided.
- Additional information – CICA may need to gather more information before coming to a decision on your claim; they will liaise with police, medical and any other relevant authorities to do this.
- Lost income and special expenses – if you made a duel, or triple, claim for compensation, requesting compensation for income loss and/or special expenses also, CICA will require further information from you regarding these. You will receive extra forms from CICA that will ask you for this information.
- Final decision – the next step is for CICA to make a final decision on your claim. The time frame for this can vary wildly depending on the complexity of the case — it could take over a year before you receive a final decision. CICA try to offer all final awards in one lump sum payable by cheque (unless special circumstances require differently). If CICA decide to reject your compensation claim, or reduce the amount awarded, then they will give you reasons why they have done this.
- Your response – once you have received a final decision detailing the amount of compensation CICA offer you or a rejection, it is your duty to respond within 90 days. You have two options:
- Accept the decision – a written response is required and you will receive your cheque.
- Contest the decision – a review form will also be included with your final decision, if you do not agree with CICA you may ask for a review and a new decision will be made by a different person.
- Review – the possible outcomes of a review are the same as the initial final decision, in that you will either be offered compensation or told why your claim has been rejected. You claim will be completely reviewed so the compensation amount may go up or down. If you are rejected for a second time, or disagree with the amount offered, then you can seek further contestation at an independent tribunal.
- Independent tribunal – again you have 90 days to respond. CICA will send you the forms that need to be completed in order to take your case to an independent tribunal. The tribunal is overseen by the Tribunal Service – Criminal Injuries Compensation, they are in no way affiliated with CICA.
Types of criminal injury claim
A criminal injury compensation claim is different to an accident injury compensation claim; the general outline of the differences is quite simple, however there are also certain variations that are slightly more complex and will be detailed below.
A criminal injury is a crime of violence, although there need not be any physical violence committed upon the victim's body for a criminal injury compensation claim to be brought forward. Psychological damage arising from a crime of violence, whether physical injury was caused or not, can also be the subject of compensation. To become a crime of violence the actions that caused the injury need to be of a deliberate nature. If this is the case then they become a matter for the police — unlike an accident — and are known as an 'incident'. The main fault line between criminal and accident claims is the presence or absence of intent — it will be present in a criminal claim and absent in an accident claim.
Though your injury may have been accidental, there are 3 sets of circumstances that could still enable your compensation claim to be classified as a criminal injury claim. These are as follows.
- An accidental injury occurring when you unintentionally became involved in an attempt to prevent a criminal act. For example, you are in the immediate proximity as the police try to arrest a criminal and you accidentally come to injury.
- An accidental injury occurring as you try to assist people escaping or putting out the fire of a building that has been set ablaze through arson. Arson is a criminal offence and, though there was no intention to cause you harm, if it wasn't for the criminal act your humanitarian instinct would never have been aroused and you would not have been injured.
- An accidental injury occurring as you take an ‘exceptional risk’ to your own safety when trying to prevent a criminal act.
To illustrate the above, take this example. You are in a small independent retailer of hardware goods. Someone whom you believe to be an innocent fellow shopper takes an electric drill from a stand, apparently to peruse its extraneous features detailed on the rear of the packaging, when suddenly he beelines for the door and makes rapid exit into the street, drill tucked under one arm but no receipt clutched in the opposite fist. The elderly proprietor bellows deeply-accented admonition at the thief, your pity for the old gentleman is stirred and you trace the felon's route to the door in pursuit. As you pass under the threshold your trailing right foot clips the door sill and you plummet, hitting the hard concrete pavement and suffering physical injury, as well as ignominy. If this, or anything remotely similar, happens to you then you may also be able to claim criminal injury compensation.
Criminal injury caused by animals
If you are attacked by an animal that is the responsibility of someone then there is the possibility that you can make a criminal injury compensation claim. The most common of these injuries are caused by dogs. The situation likely to arise where you can claim compensation when attacked by an animal are:
- If the owner, or person in charge, of the animal sets it on you.
- If the owner was aware that the animal was dangerous, perhaps it had previously attacked them or someone else, and they hadn’t taken precautions to subdue the threat it posed. For example, no muzzle on a dog with a history of biting people.
Criminal injury caused by a vehicle
Though road traffic accidents are frequently claimed on due to accidental injuries, if a vehicle is driven in a way that uses it as a weapon in order to injure you then you can claim compensation as a criminal injury has been caused.
Legal help with criminal injury claims
The Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA) does not pay legal costs as part of the compensation. It may be that you don't need professional legal help when claiming criminal injury compensation; if so then you do not need to worry yourself with this page.
However, even if you do not use a solicitor for your initial claim, you may find your claim rejected or the award not as much as you hoped. If this happens after an appeal to CICA on their first decision then the only option left open to you is an independent tribunal, and whilst it is still not necessary to seek legal aid, most people would benefit immeasurably from it.
Free legal help and advice
Despite the popular perception of lawyers as an expensive commodity there are ways to get free professional legal help and advice.
Law clinics – some legal firms provide a service that is termed a 'law clinic', when they set aside a day or evening where members of the public can come in and receive legal advice for no fee. It is worth checking with your local legal firms to see if they operate such a scheme, as you can get valuable advice that is specific to your individual case. Your time with a solicitor may be limited though, and you should also check to see if a personal injury specialist will be present as not all the lawyers will take part each time a law clinic is opened.
Legal protection cover – legal protection cover is an aspect that is included in some home insurance packages. It can cover you for legal fees in the case of a personal or criminal injury claim. It is worth checking with your insurance provider if you have this and if it can be used to fund professional legal help in a claim for criminal injury compensation.
If you find it necessary to get legal advice that you cannot obtain for free, or you need a lawyer to represent you at a tribunal, then these are the options you have:
- Contingency fee arrangement – a solicitor cannot offer you a ‘no win, no fee’ basis of employment because CICA do not pay legal costs. What they can offer is a contingency fee arrangement; this means that if you lose you will not have to pay any legal costs, though if you do win your solicitor will take a part of your compensation as payment.
- Fixed fee – this is an agreement that you come to with your solicitor whereby you have the fee fixed from the beginning and it cannot rise above this. This may work if all you need is a legal representative to attend a tribunal for you.
- Private rate – this is where a lawyer charges you by the hour for every hour of work done on your case. They can bill you regularly. This option has the possibility of being the most expensive.
If you expect a small award for your compensation then the best option is to try and get a contingency fee arrangement. If you expect your compensation to be a large sum you may benefit from the increased flexibility of a fixed fee or private fee arrangement.
Get legal help now
If you need legal advice on any of the topics covered on this page, you should try our Instant Law Line service. This service, provided by DAS, can give you access to legal advice over the phone from a qualified legal adviser for a low price.