Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Questions (381)

John McGuinness

Question:

381. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal meets on a regular basis; the number of cases before the Tribunal that were dealt with within a reasonable timeframe; the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4872/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is made up of seven qualified barristers and solicitors who provide services on a part-time basis. Each case is considered in the first instance by a single Tribunal Member. If the decision is appealed, three other Tribunal Members hear the appeal. Tribunal Members meet on a regular basis to hear appeals and to discuss their collective decision on appeal cases.

The Tribunal's Secretariat receive applications and gather the necessary information from applicants and other relevant bodies such as An Garda Síochána in relation to each case. When all required information is available, the file is sent to the Tribunal for consideration and decision. Where a decision is appealed, Tribunal staff make arrangements for a Tribunal appeal hearing.

I understand that it may take several years before an application for compensation is ready for submission to the Tribunal for consideration and decision. The duration of each case can vary depending on the nature and individual circumstances and is influenced by factors including the time involved in the provision of the required documentation to the Secretariat. For example, final Garda reports on the crime are required, as are the outcomes of any court cases initiated.

In addition, in some cases, the extent of injuries suffered by the victim may not be known for some years. It is also the case that the assessment of loss of earnings for consideration by the Tribunal may be complex to determine and may require employer assessment and social welfare reports.

It may be helpful to be aware that last year, 80 applicants accepted awards under the General Scheme. In 2020 to date, 102 decisions under the General Scheme have been made by Tribunal members. It should further be noted that not all decisions result in an award.

The Deputy may also wish to be aware that the Law Reform Commission intends to commence a comprehensive review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme mid-year, in a project expected to last for two years. I welcome this project as an opportunity for a comprehensive examination of all aspects of this long-established Scheme, to ensure that the State’s arrangements for the compensation of victims of violent crime are in keeping with good international practice and meet the needs of the public into the future.

In relation to the application referred to by the Deputy, I would first note that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications for compensation. As Minister, I have no role in that regard.

I am advised by the Tribunal secretariat that they wrote to the applicant’s legal representative on 30 January 2020 with a query on the application and issued a further reminder letter on 26 March 2020. The secretariat advises that the application cannot be progressed further at present, pending receipt of a reply to that query.