Smaller budget and rise in claims hit payments to crime victims
The Government body which compensates victims of crime cannot cope with the growing number of applications for cash, Attorney General Kim Wilson has admitted.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) has had its budget cut in recent years, as the number of people injured or killed by gunfire has risen exponentially.
Now the law governing the board is to be amended, according to Senator Wilson, to regularise the amounts paid out to victims and avoid the “inconsistency and unpredictability of awards” which has occurred.
Government figures (see sidebar) show the average compensation award dropped by almost 90 percent from $75,500 in the financial year 200⅞ to just $8,346 in 2010/11.
The mother of one recent murder victim told
The Royal Gazette she received $4,000 after her son's death, though the board can award up to $100,000.
Movita Martin, 52, whose son Dekimo was gunned down on May 28, 2010, said the sum did not even cover the cost of his funeral.
The budget allocated to the CICB by Government has gradually decreased over the last five years. In 200⅞, it was given an estimated budget of $500,000, compared to $358,00 for this financial year.
Meanwhile, the number of people injured or killed by gunfire has risen sharply, from three in 2007 to 36 in 2010.
In the last five years, 18 people have been killed and 53 people have been non-fatally injured by gunfire.
Sen Wilson told this newspaper: “Similar to other Government departments and services, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is challenged to marry fiscal sustainability with service delivery.
“The budgetary allocation for fiscal 2011/12 was lower than in previous years and, coupled with the increase in criminal injuries and corresponding applications for compensation, the CICB has been challenged in its operations.”
The figures from Government show it has previously underestimated the board's budget: one year, by more than $300,000.
In 2008/9, 70 claims for compensation were made more than could be handled by the estimated budget of $453,000. The CICB actually spent $760,000 that year.
The allocation was cut again the following year, when the estimated budget was $404,000. The board ultimately spent $475,000, with 52 claims made.
Sen Wilson said the 1973 Act which governs the board allowed for “discretionary compensatory payments” of up to $100,000 to applicants meeting certain criteria where injury or death has directly or indirectly resulted from certain criminal activities.
She said: “The present compensation scheme has resulted in inconsistency and unpredictability of awards and has contributed to the increased annual cost of compensating for criminal injuries.
“As a result, in order to contain costs, recommendations have been received from the CICB to amend the Act to provide for a schedule of tariff to regularise awards to ensure that they correspond to the injuries being compensated.”
The Justice Minister said the amendment would take into account “necessary cost savings measures and discretionary leeway to accommodate fiscal reality”.
Asked to explain that further, she said: “All options are currently under consideration to ensure the fiscal sustainability of the CICB moving forward.”
The Minister added: “In the reform process, the Ministry will ensure that the purpose of the legislation will be maintained and will reflect the Government's sensitivity and acknowledgment of the need to provide adequate compensation to victims of criminal activity.”
Sen Wilson said she could not discuss Ms Martin's case but pointed out that an appeal process exists under section 16 of the Act.
Estimated budget for Criminal Injuries Compensation Board
Actual budget of Criminal Injuries Compensation Board
2010/11: Not known but the revised estimate for the year was given in February 2011 as $404,000
Police figures on firearm injuries and fatalities
2007: 2 fatal, one injured
2008: 0 fatal, one injured
2009: 4 fatal, 13 injured
2010: 7 fatal, 29 injured
2011 (to date): five fatal, nine injured
Total number of victims killed or injured by gunfire in the last five years: 71
Number of claims processed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board
Average value of criminal injury claims