Activist: crime victims deserve better

Community activist Gina Spence has called for a review of the island’s criminal injury compensation system.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board’s budget has been slashed from $500,000 to $325,000 since 2007 — but Ms Spence said the need for assistance remains high.

Ms Spence added: “It needs to be reviewed, revised and really looked at.”

But she said: “To be fair to the Government, when it was first put together it wasn’t designed to be doing what it is doing now. It really wasn’t. A lot has changed.”

Ms Spence added that the impact of violent crime went beyond the injury itself as families lost income and ran up massive medical bills. She said keeping a family member on life support can cost thousands of dollars every day which caused a huge financial burden even if an injured person lived. Ms Spence added: “Can you imagine if someone is kept on life support for a week? Someone has to sign to be responsible for that bill.

“There are people who don’t have much insurance, so people find themselves going to court for unpaid bills. All because some one else hurt them or their loved ones.”

Ms Spence said that victims of violent crime and their families could also face other problems.

She explained: “In some shootings nurses may not be willing to go to a person’s house because of safety issues and things like that, so family members have to take care of the dressing and treatment.”

She praised the work of organisations like the Lady Cubbit Compassionate Association for their contributions and said the charity has helped a number of families get life-saving treatment they might otherwise have been unable to afford.

Ms Spence added: “It’s a really, really huge issue in this country especially for the working-class people who have little or no insurance.

“Just the funeral for someone who died can cost a family more than $10,000. And if that person was a breadwinner or a contributor to the household, then the impact is just going to continue on and on because the bills are going to remain the same.

“I have known families who are not even able to pay for the funeral.”

The budget for the CICB has risen from $300,000 to $325,000 since financial year 2016/17, but is still far below the $500,000 budgeted for 2017/18.

Awards remain capped at $100,000, but the average payout has fallen from just over $75,000 in 2007/8 to $10,645 in 2017/18.

The level of awards was highlighted by the Court of Appeal in two judgments last month.

The court found the CICB had taken medical expenses out of awards to the applicant and had not properly explained the reasoning for their decisions.

The applicants in both cases said they were $200,000 out of pocket for medical expenses, loss of income and pain and suffering, but received less than $40,000.

Appeal Court Judge Geoffrey Bell wrote: “No doubt the reason for steps such as the deduction of medical expenses from awards for pain and suffering stems from an understandable desire to stay within budgetary constraints.

“But it does seem to me that when it comes to reimbursing a medical practitioner or a hospital for medical expenses actually and reasonably incurred as a result of the victim’s injury, those setting budgetary limits need to decide whether the board should operate as an expression of society’s sympathy and compassion for the harm done to the victim or not.”

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