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Investigation into delays in early stages

Victoria Pearman, Ombudsman for Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

An investigation into delays in the payment of compensation to victims of crime is at the “fact-finding stage”, it has been revealed.

Victoria Pearman, the Ombudsman, said “that the potential harm of maladministration at the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board was grave enough ... to pursue inquiries with the Ministry of Legal Affairs on the board’s administration”.

Ms Pearman added that the ministry was told last December that an investigation into the CICB was to be launched. She added that she would not be in a position to decide if the findings of the investigation would be made public until it was finished.

Ms Pearman said: “The investigation remains in the fact-finding stage.”

She added that she launched the inquiry after she “grew concerned” that the victims of crimes and their families were facing “long periods — sometimes years — of uncertainty” as they waited for the CICB to make determinations on applications it received.

Ms Pearman said: “Some victims had suffered injuries that prevented them from working on a full-time or part-time basis.

“For the Ombudsman, it is in the public’s interest to investigate possible maladministration that impacts vulnerable members of our society, such as the victims of crime.”

She added that she became aware of the problem last October through a news story published in The Royal Gazette.

The article highlighted the fight by a former construction worker who was shot several years ago to get a CICB hearing.

Victims of crime can apply to the CICB for compensation on several grounds, including coverage for expenses related to their injuries and for financial loss because of a total or partial inability to work.

The maximum payout for a claimant is $100,000. The CICB was established by the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Act 1973.

The Ombudsman’s office last year handled 309 cases, including 166 new complaints and 98 new enquiries. A total of 45 complaints remained open from the previous year.

The Ombudsman Act 2004 requires that the Ombudsman submit an annual report to the Speaker of the House, with a copy to the Governor and the President of the Senate, within the first six months of the year.