Five cases consumed 23% of compensation budget for crime victims

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal’s fixed budget has led to large build-up of cases

 

Almost a quarter of the €27 million paid out by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal since 2013 was split between just five individuals.

The tribunal provides compensation to cover out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical bills and missed wages, to victims of crime. However, there are concerns at the length applicants must wait to have their cases processed.

Figures released to The Irish Times show that of the €27 million paid out between 2013 and last year, €6.2 million (23 per cent) went to five victims. These are understood to be victims of serious assaults who incurred large medical bills.

The tribunal only compensates for vouched expenses on the production of receipts and does not compensate for distress or psychological suffering.

These large payments to a small number of individuals, combined with the tribunal’s fixed annual budget of €4 million, have resulted in a significant backlog of cases building up. Last year just 31 payouts were made while 180 applications were received.

The highest payment to an individual in recent years was €2.5 million in 2013 followed by €1.85 million in 2014. Last year the highest payment was €905,000. The rest of the payments over the five-year period were shared between 443 successful applicants, with some receiving as little as €67.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan this week announced a top-up of €2.4 million for this year’s budget to allow more claims to be processed. A similar top-up occurred in 2013 when the tribunal’s budget was increased to €11 million to help clear the backlog.

These more complex applications, although exceptionally important to settle, tend to get put off

The tribunal said it is not possible to determine how long it takes each case to be processed due to the way it collects data but it is understood some cases can take up to four years, depending on their complexity.

The High Court last year ruled that the tribunal had breached a woman’s right to constitutional justice by taking 13 years to finalise a claim she brought as a result of a serious assault.

Mr Flanagan has also announced that he will ask the Law Reform Commission to review the workings of the scheme as part of its next programme of reform.

‘Dysfunctional’

Fianna Fáil TD John Curran has criticised the “dysfunctional” fixed nature of the budget.

“For instance, one case could need to pay out €1 million or more when it reaches settlement, especially a victim which has suffered a life-altering injury. That means that one substantial case settlement can absorb a quarter of the Tribunal’s funding,” he said.

“These more complex applications, although exceptionally important to settle, tend to get put off as a result and until a time that the payment can be met under a yearly budget. That could be half a decade and this is a severely dysfunctional way to operate.”

As well as compensating victims of crime, the tribunal compensates families of homicide victims for funeral costs the lost earnings of the deceased. Between 2013 and 2016 it made 105 payments in fatality cases.

The tribunal has spent 6.7 per cent (€1.05 million) of its budget since 2014 on administrative expenses including fees to barristers employed to hear the applications. Last year it spent €349,000 of its €4 million budget on running costs.