Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Re-think urged on cuts to compensation for victims of violence

Government plans to stop compensating victims of certain kinds of violent attacks should be scrapped, shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan has said.

Under the proposed new rules, 90% of currently eligible claimants would see their compensation cut altogether or "severely reduced", Mr Khan told MPs as he opened an opposition-led debate on the draft Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme on 7 November 2012.

"Those no-longer receiving any compensation whatsoever include injuries such as permanent speech impairment, multiple broken ribs, post-traumatic epileptic fits, burns and scarring causing minor facial disfigurement, all the many victims of vicious dog attacks, including young children [and] postal workers doing their jobs,... significant facial scarring, punctured lungs, permanent brain injuries affecting balance, [and] fractured joints that lead to continual, significant disability," he said.

This would have affected 91% of the victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, Mr Khan told MPs.

But Justice Minister Damien Green said there were "two problems with the scheme as it stands: the policy rationale, which is flawed, and the scheme's affordability".

He explained: "The scheme is not currently clear as to just what a crime of violence is, and it allows awards to be paid to people who have themselves committed violent crimes, and also to people who, perhaps many months previously, had already recovered from the minor injuries they received.

"The government is clear that in some circumstances where someone has, through no fault of their own, been a victim of violent crime, it is right to provide financial assistance.

"But we also need to be clear that where people have sustained relatively minor injuries that they will recover from fairly quickly, small sums of money aren't the best way to help them."

The minister told the Commons the changes would save £50m a year.

At the end of the debate, MPs rejected Labour's motion, which called for the reforms to be abandoned, by 289 votes to 209, a government majority of 80.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is run by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, which can make awards from £1,000 to £500,000 depending on the severity of the injury to victims of crime.

More than 60,000 people applied for compensation in 2010-2011.

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