New rights for victims of crime in Europe - Helping people apply for compensation
Currently, the state compensation systems in the UK and Ireland are more generous than those in most other European countries. In addition, Victim Support is available to provide information about the system and to assist people with their applications. However, again even within our countries there are discrepancies. Victim Support Northern Ireland is developing a highly advanced system, demonstrating how, with appropriate funding, Victim Support can provide a comprehensive service to ensure that victims of violent crime get the compensation to which they are entitled.
In July 1999, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield conducted a review of Criminal Injuries Compensation in Northern Ireland. The review report (15) examined the fitness for purpose of the existing 'common law' based scheme and made recommendations for improvements for the future. In May 2002 the government introduced a new 'tariff based' scheme, similar to that which operates in England and Wales.
A significant change to current practice will be that legal fees will no longer generally be available to assist claimants to make their claim. Instead, given that the new scheme will be simpler to administer, Victim Support will be funded to provide a range of services to future claimants. These services will be provided on three levels:
- emotional support, information about compensation and practical help in completing application forms;
- correspondence with the compensation agency, explanation of decisions made, practical help with applications for review, and, explanation of review decisions;
- assistance in preparing for appeal hearings, moral support and, if requested, representation at appeals hearings.
The availability of specific funding to Victim Support is essential. It will enable the service to set up an appropriate management and staffing structure; to recruit and train a team of volunteers to provide services to claimants as well as recruiting and training a team of full-time paid advice workers. There are also plans to develop and use a computerised management information system for handling 'on-line' applications and monitoring and evaluating all aspects of the new service. Finally, the service will develop and use a communication strategy geared to helping the public in general, and claimants in particular, make informed decisions about the services on offer.
Company number: 2158780 Registered in England. Limited by guarantee.
Registered charity number: 298028.