Victims’ Commissioner calls for change to compensation system
Baroness Newlove highlighted the issue in her annual report for 2017/18.
Compensation for people who suffer at the hands of criminals should be paid up front rather than in “derisory” instalments, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales has said.
Baroness Newlove called for a change to the way court-ordered financial awards are paid after they are imposed on convicted offenders.
Writing in her 2017/18 annual report, she said she wanted to see victims receive compensation in full following a conviction, rather than waiting for the money to be recovered from a defendant.
“Currently, compensation can be paid in derisory amounts over a lengthy period, leaving victims feeling frustrated,” the commissioner said.
Achieving the ambition of placing victims’ rights at the heart of our criminal justice system can never be achieved without cost. But to the victims, it’s a right that is priceless Baroness Newlove
“I want 100% of court-ordered compensation to be paid by the court to the victim straightaway, with the court recouping this from the offender, so the victim isn’t out of pocket and doesn’t feel cheated.”
Following a conviction, magistrates and judges can impose compensation orders on offenders whose crimes resulted in injury, loss or damage.
The court must consider the convicted individual’s means when determining the amount.
Baroness Newlove flagged up the issue of compensation as she repeated her call for a Victims’ Law so a number of “core” legal rights are guaranteed.
She said legislation could deliver “seismic change” for victims.
Acknowledging that her proposals are “ambitious”, she added: “Critics will quibble about costs at a time when the public sector purse is under enormous pressure.
“Achieving the ambition of placing victims’ rights at the heart of our criminal justice system can never be achieved without cost.
“But to the victims, it’s a right that is priceless.”
Baroness Newlove also welcomed changes to the parole system announced in the wake of controversy over the decision to release sex attacker John Worboys earlier this year.
The commissioner said: “Victims tell me they want to be more involved in the parole process.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Victim compensation is the first financial penalty collected from an offender, with over £41m paid to victims in 2016/17 alone – up from £32.9m in the previous year.
“Furthermore, compensation for victims of violent crime is already available through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which paid out over £140m last year.
“We remain absolutely committed to supporting victims of crime, and will publish our victims strategy later this summer.”