Criminal injuries board met only once in 2018
The government body set up to compensate victims of crime did not consider a single application on the only occasion it met last year, a leaked e-mail from a board member has revealed.
Paul Wilson, a lawyer who now works for the Government and no longer sits on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, wrote to law student Eron Hill on January 8 to say that the CICB’s meeting on November 28 last year was “purely introductory”.
Mr Wilson wrote: “There were no cases considered.
“We had hoped that we would be able to squeeze in a second meeting before the end of the year.
“However, due to the various scheduling of the panel members, we were unsuccessful.”
The e-mail appeared to contradict the CICB’s response to a public access to information request from The Royal Gazette, which disclosed that “in 2018, the board sat on one occasion and considered 17 applications”.
Mr Wilson said last week it would not be appropriate for him to comment because he resigned from the board this year after he accepted a job with the Legal Aid Office.
Mr Wilson’s e-mail to Mr Hill was part of an exchange between the pair about a firearms victim who has been waiting for more than three years for his application for compensation to be considered.
The young man’s injuries have hampered his ability to work and Mr Hill has assisted him with his claim.
A Court of Appeal judgment from November last year said the CICB had a “serious backlog” of compensation claims and the body is now under investigation for possible maladministration by Victoria Pearman, the Ombudsman.
It did not reveal the number of outstanding cases in response to the Pati request.
The members appointed to the board between January 1 and December 31 last year were chairwoman Puisne Judge Nicole Stoneham; deputy chairman Michael Scott, a Progressive Labour Party MP and lawyer; doctors Panagal Chelvam and Kyjuan Brown; and lawyers Tawana Tannock and Mr Wilson.
Mr Hill wrote to Mr Scott, Dr Brown and Mr Wilson in October last year to ask why CICB members had yet to meet in 2018.
Mr Scott, a former Attorney-General, replied on November 1: “I am expending my utmost energies to convene the CICB in meeting. Please stand by for a short five days.”
The board met on November 28 but the firearms victim did not get a decision.
Mr Wilson e-mailed Mr Hill on February 5 to say the 2018 board had been “reconstituted”.
It is understood it met for the first time this year on February 20. Mr Hill replied that the gunshot victim had been “extremely patient, not just for the past year in dealing with this board but, of course, for the number of years that his complaint has laid dormant without action from previous boards”.
Mr Hill continued: “Patience, however, has its limits and I think it would be fair to say, even on a conservative view, that the victim has been more than patient in his wait for restorative justice”.
He added that he would advise the victim to send a formal letter to threaten litigation.
Mr Wilson replied: “Patience does have its limits and another letter threatening litigation may be what spurs the board to action.
“From my limited view, there may not be enough of an administrative presence lending support in this regard.”
The Royal Gazette understands that the CICB, which was allocated $380,000 in this year’s budget, has been given little administrative support from the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
That has resulted in victims of violent crime waiting for years to have their claims for compensation heard.
Mr Hill, who shared Mr Wilson’s e-mails with The Royal Gazette, said: “It is wholly unsatisfactory that members of our community who unfortunately fell victim to crime have to date been failed by those tasked with the important responsibility of upholding the statutory regime designed to provide victims of crime adequate means of redress.
“It is important to note that some of the victims that are awaiting redress include very young children who have lost their parents and individuals who, as a result of the injuries suffered, are prevented from working. A great deal of these individuals cannot afford legal representation and as such have no access to justice.”
Mr Hill added he did not blame any particular individual as it was clear successive boards and governments had “neglected to discharge their duty to ensure that victims of crime are afforded adequate redress”.
But he said: “I implore the current government to address this matter with the urgency of now.
“If the failure to remedy these issues continues, it will demonstrate the current administration’s willing disregard for some of the most vulnerable in our society.”
Mrs Justice Stoneham and Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Minister of Legal Affairs, did not respond to requests for comment.
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