Helen Grant, the newly appointed justice minister, has reiterated the government’s intention to cut compensation for victims of less serious crime.
Grant (pictured) said the new scheme, due to be implemented at the end of this month, will save the taxpayer around £50m a year and also ringfence compensation for crimes such as murder, rape and domestic violence.
The government was criticised over the summer by unions and by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers for changes to the compensation structure.
The scheme has a tariff system that is split into 25 bands; the Ministry of Justice has proposed removing the first five bands which currently include all claims valued at under £2,500. Speaking in the House of Commons on Friday, Grant said total liabilities for the compensation scheme stand at £532m.
‘With new liabilities arising at a rate of about £200m a year under the current scheme, that is simply not sustainable in the present economic climate,’ she said. ‘The scheme must be put on a sensible, sustainable footing so that timely payments can continue to be made.
‘The government does not believe that a compelling case has been made for maintaining payments for minor injuries, which is what has been asked of us. As with other applications to the scheme, if postal or shop workers’ injuries are sufficiently serious, they will be eligible.’
According to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority annual report for 2010/11, almost half of all payments made by the CICS fell into bands one to five, affecting 17,700 people a year on average.
Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins, who introduced an adjournment debate on the issue, said it was ‘unacceptable’ for the government to claim that the injuries concerned were not life-threatening.
He added: ‘[Victims] suffer flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks, for example. Moreover, many of the awards in tariffs one to five are for permanent physical disabilities such as corneal abrasions, speech impairment, or a "continuing significant disability" to a finger - very important for those who do manual work such as filling shelves or delivering letters.’
A further debate on the issue was due to take place in the Commons today. The government needs the support of both houses to implement the proposed changes.