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Judges call for overhaul of criminal injuries compensation scheme

Author: Gail Harris

Court of Appeal judges have said that the Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme (CICA) needs to be revisited so that it properly compensates for unborn children harmed as a result of criminal acts.

Failings of the scheme were highlighted in a recent case where the Court of Appeal had to rule on a CICA application by a child who was born with a serious genetic disorder as a result of his mother being sexually abused by her father.

After the child’s claim was first refused by CICA, and then again on appeal, he sought a judicial review of the decision. The High Court ruled that his disorder was in fact a personal injury, and as such, the child was eligible for compensation. However, CICA appealed the decision on the grounds that the child’s congenital condition was the direct result of the relationship between his parents, not the sexual assault itself, and therefore, under the terms of the scheme, could not be classed as a personal injury.

While the Court of Appeal expressed ‘profound sympathy’ for both the mother and the child, they were clear in their ruling that in its current form the scheme could only provide for the mother as she was the victim of the crime. The child himself could not be the victim because he did not exist at the time of the crime, but was conceived as a consequence of it.

The court felt that the Secretary of State, rather than compensating the child in such cases, should look at expanding the scheme’s remit so that mothers’ who give birth to disabled children as a result of a violent crime, are entitled to receive additional compensation to help with the difficulties in caring for the child.

Maria James, trainee legal executive with Atherton Godfrey, who specialises in both sexual abuse claims and CICA claims, commented: “This case had an unfortunate outcome for the client. However, this should not put others off approaching solicitors and the CICA in similar cases or those relating to unborn children, as there are circumstances that may attract an award, even in the current scheme.”

Anyone wanting further advice or assistance can contact Maria in complete confidence on 01302 320621 or email info@athertongodfrey.co.uk

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