Ombudsman hits out at CICB
An investigation into the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has highlighted serious problems, the Ombudsman revealed yesterday.
Victoria Pearman said the board lacked the basic administrative and financial backing to do its job.
Ms Pearman added: “Without prejudging any matters, my investigation thus far has revealed that the board does not have an operating budget or appear to have dedicated resources for the administration of its important work of aiding vulnerable people.
“It is difficult to see how the board can operate effectively without having allocated to it the support required for any modern administrative function.”
She said that her investigation into the CICB, the government body set up to compensate victims of crime, was “progressing”.
Ms Pearman added: “We have had productive and informative discussions and are carefully reviewing the vast amount of material required as part of our work.”
She was speaking after The Royal Gazette asked a series of questions about the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Amendment Act 2019 tabled in the House of Assembly last Friday.
The explanatory memorandum for the Bill said the amendment was “to allow for improved efficiency in carrying out the mandate of the CICB”.
The Bill also proposed that members of the CICB should be appointed by the Minister of Legal Affairs rather than the Governor.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and the Minister of Legal Affairs with responsibility for the CICB, and John Rankin, the Governor, declined to comment on the Bill.
Ms Pearman said that her investigation had shown “that on occasion the board has experienced delays in being constituted”.
She added: “By streamlining the appointment process this might reduce delays experienced in the past.”
The Bill also proposes to change the qualifications for the CICB chairman “by changing it from a judge to a barrister and attorney with at least ten years’ experience and also amends the qualifications for the deputy chairman of the CICB by requiring the barrister and attorney to have at least eight years’ experience”.
Ms Pearman said that the change would mean “less demand on scarce judicial resources”.
She added: “I have confidence that senior members of our Bar have the requisite skills to effectively weigh the evidence and apply the law which is required for these roles.”
Ms Pearman announced in her annual report last year that she had launched the inquiry after she “grew concerned” that the victims of crimes and their families were facing “long periods — sometimes years — of uncertainly” as they waited for the CICB to hand down decisions.
She added: “It is in the public’s interest to investigate possible maladministration that impacts vulnerable members of our society, such as the victims of crime.”
Ms Pearman added that she became aware of the problem last October through a news story published in The Royal Gazette.
The story involved a victim of gun violence who had applied to the CICB for compensation in 2015 after he was shot a year earlier.
The man, who asked not to be named, said last month that he had been told he was to get a payout for his injuries.
But he said that the decision would not stop legal action against the CICB and the Attorney-General for damages over the delay.
The action for damages claimed a Constitutional breach of duty by the CICB and the Attorney-General by “unreasonably delaying the hearing of his application”.
It said that the man wanted a declaration that his rights had been breached and aggravated, as well as exemplary and punitive damages, “equitable compensation” and costs.
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