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CICA and False Claims: A Rock and a Hard Place? - Caroline Kelly, Thorntons

17/09/17. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has been in the press on a number of occasions recently about compensation paid out to abuse victims in cases where the allegations have later been exposed as false.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) is a government funded scheme which aims to compensate victims of violent crime.

Having previously volunteered as a support worker with the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (WRASAC), I know how difficult it can be for survivors to speak out about the abuse they have suffered, often taking years to do so and I also know how difficult it can be to obtain a conviction in such cases. So to read comments suggesting that compensation in such cases should only be paid where the allegations have been tested and proven does concern me. How many survivors would miss out on compensation if that were the case?

I absolutely agree that in cases where allegations of abuse have been found to be false, then steps should be taken to recover the compensation paid, albeit I appreciate in many cases that compensation may well already be spent and the person may have no money to pay the compensation back. However, if CICA were only to pay compensation in cases where there has been a criminal conviction, many who suffered such abuse would go without compensation. There has to be a balance struck. It must also be remembered that criminal cases have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt whilst a civil case must be proven on the balance of probabilities.

CICA do not pay out compensation lightly and I don’t agree with any suggestion that the system provides an incentive for people to make up allegations of abuse to recover compensation. It is not simply a case of filling out a form making such allegations and CICA then pay out compensation. An investigation is undertaken by CICA including obtaining reports from the police and from medical professionals about the impact the abuse has had on the survivor. In my view, those who make false allegations and submit a claim for compensation will have to have gone to some lengths to weave a story that supports a claim for compensation.

Where allegations are later proven to be false, then CICA can take steps to recover the money paid out by pursuing a civil action to recover the compensation paid. This in itself costs money and ultimately even if CICA obtain a judgment, that only confirms that CICA are entitled to repayment of the sum and most likely expenses as well. If the perpetrator has no assets or money to pay, then CICA will recover little or nothing. So to take steps to pursue the civil fraud, they have to weigh up whether or not the perpetrator has any funds or assets to repay them.

Whilst I think there are some ways in which CICA fail victims of crime, I also recognise that they are in a difficult situation particularly in abuse claims. If they refuse to pay out until criminal investigations are concluded and the allegations are found to be proven to the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, many survivors would be refused compensation as so many cases are not prosecuted due to lack of evidence or a not guilty verdict is returned. I don’t believe that all those cases are cases where false accusations have been made. It is my view that in this situation, CICA are doing their best to ensure that genuine survivors of abuse are paid out, even in cases where a conviction does not follow. It would certainly be interesting to see how many abuse cases CICA have paid compensation on against those cases where compensation has been paid and the allegations are later found to be false as I believe that the number of people making such false allegations and recovering compensation are a minority and CICA are acting in the interests of the majority. Ultimately, I think CICA will always be between a rock and a hard place in this situation.

Caroline Kelly is a Partner and Solicitor Advocate in in Thorntons’ Personal Injury Team.

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