The following blog was provided to NAPAC by Marek Marczynski, an Abuse Claims Solicitor at specialist law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp.
Many survivors start their quest for justice by reporting the abuse to the police. When the police investigation starts, some police officers advise the survivors to seek compensation for the harm they have experienced from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
The CICA is a government run scheme, which compensates victims of violent crimes (including survivors of sexual and physical abuse) for the harm they have experienced.
Am I eligible?
In order to be eligible to seek compensation from CICA, one needs to meet the following criteria:
- Report the abuse to the police
- Make an application to CICA within two years of the crime taking place or within two years of reporting to the police
- Not have any criminal convictions
The CICA compensates the applicants based on its own compensation tariffs. While making an application to CICA can be less time consuming and burdensome than pursuing a civil claim, the survivors need to be aware that the level of compensation granted by CICA is often much lower than what they could be entitled to following a successful civil claim.
At the same time, there may be valid reasons why seeking compensation from CICA could be in the best interests of the survivors. For this reason, it is always a good idea to seek specialist legal advice.
I have applied to the CICA, does it mean that I am not entitled to make a civil claim now?
You are not prevented from starting a civil claim, even if you have already made an application to the CICA or even if you already received CICA compensation. It is important that you seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible, so that you know what your options are and what to expect.
You are not allowed to be compensated twice for the same injury. This means that if you receive a compensation award from the CICA and then subsequently obtain a higher compensation figure following a successful civil claim, you will be asked to return the award obtained previously from the CICA. However, you will still be entitled to keep the difference between the CICA award and your civil compensation. In some situations, the difference may be significant.
If you have made an application to the CICA but you have not yet received a decision, you may be able to ask the CICA to put your application with them on hold while your civil claim is pending.
What is the advantage of making a civil claim?
The compensation tariffs used by the CICA have not been updated for many years. As a result, the compensation awards offered by the CICA are usually much lower than what a claimant would be entitled to in a successful civil claim.
Many survivors also tell us that under the CICA scheme, they find it very difficult to get compensated for other consequential losses such as past or future counselling or loss of earnings, which they could otherwise be entitled to in a civil claim.
Some survivors may also encounter other obstacles which may prevent them from seeking compensation from the CICA. For example, some may have criminal convictions which means that they would not be able to meet the eligibility criteria to seek compensation from the CICA, but they would not be prevented from seeking compensation in a civil claim.
Another reason why some survivors may decide to seek compensation in a civil claim is when they have missed the two-year window for making their CICA application. While unexplained delays may also cause problems in a civil claim, a specialist law firm should be able to advise on how to make a successful civil claim for compensation despite the passage of time.
Although NAPAC cannot provide legal advice, we have a partnership programme for law firms with teams who specialise in non-recent childhood abuse cases. Whilst we cannot recommend any one firm for your case, these firms can talk through your options and enable you to make an informed decision.