Times caption: Baroness Newlove said she was concerned to hear that victims were asked if they were motivated by greed (PA)
If we are to accept that people accused of crimes – including sex crimes – are innocent until found guilty in a court of law, then ‘victims’ of crimes should always be referred to as ‘alleged’ victims. I’ve added the word ‘alleged’ to the following article by Richard Ford in yesterday’s Times to illustrate the point.
Defence barristers are asking victims of (alleged) sex crimes whether greed for compensation has motivated their allegation, the victims’ commissioner has said.
The practice is disclosed in a report published today calling for reform of the criminal injuries compensation scheme. The paper says that many of those claiming compensation find the process highly stressful because it forces them to relive details of the (alleged) attack.
In the report Baroness Newlove, the victims’ commissioner and Conservative peer, says: “I was particularly concerned to hear that some (alleged) victims of sexual crimes were being cross-examined by defence barristers on whether they had made an application for compensation and questioned whether greed had motivated their complaints.” [J4MB: Why was Baroness Newlove “particularly concerned”? She appears blind to the possibility of false allegations, in which case the true victim is the defendant, not the complainant. Cross-examination by defence barristers on the issue of compensation may contribute to the likelihood that innocent defendants don’t end up in prison.]
Almost a third of (alleged) victims who took part in a survey had been told by police or the Crown Prosecution Service not to apply for criminal injuries compensation until the trial had finished. “(Alleged) Victims, legal representatives and police and crime commissioners have reported that the police advise (alleged) victims not to apply for criminal injuries compensation before or during a trial because defence lawyers could use this against them at trial, and imply that they were only making allegations to claim compensation,” the report says.
Some legal representatives thought it unlikely that this would happen in reality, the document adds, but one victim support group reported: “Defence using an application to insinuate a survivor has reported for financial gain.”
Assistant Chief Constable Emma Barnett, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said that officers could be reluctant to encourage (alleged) victims to seek compensation before trial because it could call motives into question. “I have an example of an officer who was questioned in court as to whether the (alleged) victim had made a claim or not,” she said.
The report warns that some (alleged) victims may miss out on compensation because they are advised not to claim until after a trial has concluded, by which time they have missed the two-year deadline for applying. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has said that the deadline can be extended in exceptional circumstances but people are still initially being told they are out of time, the report says. Too many (alleged) victims need help from a third party because the process is so complex and those getting legal help can lose up to 25 per cent of their award paying lawyers, it adds.
Lady Newlove says: “The process of claiming is often having a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. I worry that we are treating it as a tick-box exercise, without recognising the emotional needs of those making claims.”
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “As part of our victims strategy last year we pledged to look at the difficulties faced by some when applying for compensation, announcing a review of the scheme to ensure it supports them better. The review will report back later this year and will consider the points raised by the victims’ commissioner.”
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