Lawyers and unions call for radical reform to 'insulting' criminal injury compensation system after award to machete attack girl29 January 2001
Scarred for life by attack
Lawyers acting for Francesca Quintyne, the little girl scarred for life in the horrific attack at the Teddy Bear's Picnic in 1996, today said the decision by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeal Panel (CICAP) to increase her compensation award had not gone far enough.
The panel accepted the evidence put by Francesca's barrister Cherie Booth QC that Francesca has a disabling mental disorder and that she has symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. For this the panel made an award of £20,000.
But the panel did not make an award for the future treatment of Francesca's physical injuries, although it has made it possible for the claim to be reopened should treatment be needed.
The panel also made an award of £2,500 to pay for specialist psychological therapy.
Psychological damage and physical injuries
Ms Booth had told the CICAP that Francesca was likely to suffer from permanent psychological damage and that her physical injuries too would almost certainly require medical treatment for many years to come. She asked the CICAP to take both factors into account and increase her compensation award to the maximum amount available to them.
But the CICA said it would only increase the award to reflect the psychological impact of the attack.
Tom Jones of Thompsons Solicitors, the UK's largest specialist personal injury law firm, said:
"The appeals panel has gone to the limits of the scheme in its award and we are grateful to them for that. But there is something very wrong with a system that is willing to treat in this way a little girl who has been the victim of such a horrifying attack. £750 for the facial scarring and a total of £23,000 would be laughable if this weren't so tragic. The message that it gives is that if you are the innocent victim of an attack by a madman your injuries are worth less than if you are injured in a car crash.
"This decision exposes a grossly unfair system which the government must now radically reform, as it pledged to do before the last general election.
"Tinkering with the system is not enough - we need root and branch reform. The government made promises in opposition and if it means anything about what it says on crime this is a commitment it must not be allowed to wriggle out of."
Let down by CICA system
Francesca's mother Sheridon said she believed her daughter had been badly let down by the system.
"We have never asked for the earth. We wanted what was fair. How can £750 for the scarring ever be called fair? Whilst I know from Friday's hearing that the panel has gone that extra mile it hasn't delivered justice for Francesca.
"When Francesca knows that she has got less than someone with the same injuries from a car accident what else does she conclude other than in some way that society views her as less important?
"The CICA system has treated Francesca as a second class citizen. No mother would want her child to go through what we have but to be insulted by the system in this way at the end is just too much."
CICA system is inadequate
Adrian Bailey MP for West Bromwich West said he was shocked by the low levels of compensation awarded on average by the CICA.
"The system of compensating people who are the innocent victims of criminal attacks is totally inadequate. The levels of compensation paid under both the pre and post tariff systems appear to be derisory. I wholeheartedly support the campaign for a reform of the system to one that compensates victims as they would be by a Civil court."
Call on the government to reform CICA tariff system
Mick Rix, general secretary of Aslef, said his members were all too often the victims of criminal attacks while doing their jobs. Yet the amount received in compensation for the post traumatic stress suffered by such incidents was often derisory or nothing at all.
"Train drivers too regularly have to contend with attacks on them as well as with vandalism - such as objects placed on railway lines - and suicide attempts. Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorder after such a horrific experience. Yet even if their condition is permanent the compensation they receive never reflects the future consequences of the injury. If they have a 'near miss' they get no compensation at all.
"We call on the government to reform the tariff system so that it treats the victims of crime in the same way as those who are injured through accidents."
Andy Gilchrist, FBU general secretary, said:
"Firefighters have to be able to show that they were in a situation of 'exceptional risk' to be able to claim compensation for injuries sustained whilst attending a fire caused by arson. This system only compensates those the CICA decide have acted heroically."
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