Criminal injuries compensation report sent to House for debate
A report on the status of Bermuda’s criminal injuries compensation system is set to be put before the House of Assembly at its next session.
It comes after reports that the was “severely backlogged”, resulting in victims of violent crime waiting years for their applications to be heard.
A spokeswoman confirmed that Victoria Pearman, the Ombudsman for Bermuda, had delivered a report entitled A Future for Criminal Injuries Compensation to the Speaker’s Chambers so that it could be put to MPs.
The spokeswoman added: “The report is designed to bring about change in the operation and actions of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.
“The board is established to provide compensation to victims of crime who have suffered physical or mental harm as a result.
“The Ombudsman will now look to the implementation of the recommendations in the report to better serve the applicants for compensation and the Bermuda public.”
The report will be released to the public once it is tabled in the House of Assembly in the new year when Parliament returns.
The Royal Gazette previously revealed that some victims of crime who had applied for criminal injuries compensation were having to wait years for their claims to be processed.
In one case, the lawyer for a man shot in 2014 was told by the Supreme Court in October, 2018 that the CICB was “severely backlogged” and that his case had yet to be dealt with.
The board told the Court of Appeal a month later that it had 37 outstanding applications from those who had lost a loved one or been injured because of a violent crime.
The stories sparked a systemic inquiry by the Ombudsman into delays in hearing applications by the board.
Ms Pearman said in December 2019 that her office’s investigation had highlighted serious problems at the board, including that it lacked the basic administrative and financial backing to do its job.
The Government passed legislation last March aimed at tackling the delays.
Under the revised legislation, the board chairman would no longer have to be a Supreme Court judge, but a barrister with at least ten years’ experience, to ease the pressure on an overstretched judiciary.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board receives more than $350,000 annually in the Government Budget, but the Budget Book revealed that in 2020 the board did not meet or hear any claims for compensation from victims of violent crime.
It had 14 active applications and received seven new claims during the period but paid out no financial awards.