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Scott’s House address angers gunshot victim

Michael Scott

A victim of gun violence who has struggled for financial compensation said yesterday that he was enraged by comments from an MP.

The man, who spoke to The Royal Gazette on condition of anonymity, said: “I was infuriated when I learnt that Michael Scott told Parliament that he’s tired of hearing questions from The Royal Gazette about the delays with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.”

The man said: “He knows there are applicants who have waited many years to have their claims heard.”

The man was speaking after Mr Scott, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, told the House of Assembly this month that he was concerned about “weaponising information” obtained through public access to information laws.

The Court of Appeal said last year that the CICB, the Government body set up to compensate victims of crime, had a “serious backlog of claims”.

The Gazette submitted a public access to information request to the board to find out the number of outstanding applications but it did not provide the number.

The Pati request also asked for the annual reports for the CICB for the years 2010 through 2017. The board said the last time an annual report was submitted to the Attorney-General was in April 2016.

Mr Scott, who sits on the CICB, told MPs the Pati Act “must not be used to inquire into sensitive information, that is concerned with the kinds of cases we deal with, in a legal context, about persons making applications for compensation”.

He added that he and Puisne Judge Nicole Stoneham, the chairwoman of the CICB, “were not going to get caught up in bait on the part of the media for the release of all manner of inappropriate information related to CICB”.

Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette last week that he and Mrs Justice Stoneham had agreed to not respond to the newspaper’s questions as a policy.

The man said that the Government’s inaction on his case showed it did not care.

He said: “When it’s time for an election, the politicians come around to get our vote, but once elected, it’s like they don’t care.

“It has been nearly five years since I applied to the CICB for compensation and to date the only thing I have received is a $6,000 legal bill from previous lawyers, who lodged the application.”

The man, a former construction worker, was shot in 2014. He first shared his story with the Gazette last October, prompting Ombudsman Victoria Pearman to launch an ongoing inquiry into potential maladministration at the CICB.

The 27-year-old said the attack left him with a hole in his colon and a chipped spine.

He added: “I have permanent nerve damage in my leg. I have no feeling from my hip down to my knee.”

The man said the injury caused him “excruciating daily pain”.

He said his injuries had left him unable to work, which in turn meant he could not afford a lawyer.

The man said with the help of law student Eron Hill, lawyer Vaughan Caines had agreed to take on his case pro bono.

He added: “Prior to receiving my injuries, I was a healthy young man who had ambitions of becoming a professional footballer and personal trainer.

“As an inevitable result of this regrettable situation, I am unable to pursue those dreams.”

He applied to the CICB in 2015 and got a letter five days later that confirmed his application had been received.

The man said he sent a letter to Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, almost two years ago about the status of his case.

He said yesterday he had yet to receive a response.

Questions sent to Ms Simmons on Wednesday about the status of the man’s case were forwarded to Mrs Justice Stoneham.

They were not answered by press time yesterday.