More cash for crime victims – judge
The compensation system for injuries caused by criminals needs more money pumped into it, a top appeals judge has advised.
Sir Scott Baker, president of the Court of Appeal, said: “If the Government is to provide a scheme for the compensation of the victims of crime, as it currently does under the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Act 1973, it must be properly funded with adequate administrative support. This is ultimately the responsibility of the Attorney-General.”
He added: “Unless prompt action is taken to remedy these problems, there are likely to be further appeals which come at an unnecessary cost to the public purse.”
He was speaking as the panel of appeal judges almost doubled the $5,750 award given to a man left with permanent disfigurement and pain after he was shot in the leg.
The appeal judges said that Lionel Thomas Jr had been given an “unreasonably low” award for the injuries he suffered when he was shot four years ago.
The appeal court written judgment gave Mr Thomas $10,000 instead and also $1,500 for his legal costs.
The appeal judges also criticised delays of years in hearing cases and the Criminal Injury Compensation Board’s failure to submit annual reports for last year and 2016.
Mr Thomas was shot in the leg in the early hours of April 29, 2014 as he returned to his home in St David’s.
He saw several figures wearing helmets on the outside steps, which led to his bedroom door.
When he reached the stairs the figures had gone, but when he walked around the house he confronted one of the figures, who shot him in the right thigh and left calf.
Shannon Dill later admitted wounding Mr Thomas with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and was sentenced to ten years in prison.
Kyjuan Brown, Mr Thomas’s doctor, said the gunshot wounds led to permanent disfigurement of his left leg, chronic leg pain and cramps.
The Criminal Injury Compensation Board heard the case in February — almost four years after the shooting — and agreed to award Mr Thomas $5,750 for pain and suffering.
A transcript of the meeting broke down the sum as $5,000 for the injury to the left leg and $750 for the injury to the right.
The appeal court heard that Mr Thomas was not given any details about how the award was calculated.
Mr Thomas’s lawyer later contacted the board to ask for an increased award, but the board did not respond.
Christina Herrero, who represented Mr Thomas at the appeal, said her client had suffered a “significant disabling disorder”.
She said the total compensation for the injuries suffered could be as high as $31,750.
However, Wendy Greenidge, for the board, said people who had suffered more serious injuries had been given less than Mr Thomas had requested.
Puisne Judge Geoffrey Bell, of the appeals court, said in a written judgment the award granted was too low.
Mr Justice Bell wrote that if Mr Thomas’s injuries “do not technically rise to the level of being a disability, they clearly represent some continuing level of discomfort”.
Mr Justice Bell said in all of the circumstances an additional award was appropriate, but not the level requested by Mr Thomas.
Mr Justice Bell also highlighted the time it took for the board to hear Mr Thomas’s case. He said: “The time lag between injury and award was almost four years.
“There was no way of telling from the record why such a delay should have occurred, and neither counsel was able to assist the court in this regard.”
Mr Justice Bell said the appeal court was told there was a 37-strong list of people waiting for compensation hearings, but had not been given enough information to decide if the cases were being dealt with in a timely manner.
He added that if the board were to rely on a tariff system, the tariffs needed to be enforced with regulations.
Mr Justice Bell added: “We have been told that requests have been made to successive Attorneys-General for the necessary regulations to be authorised. This is a simple matter which should not be delayed further.”
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