As the Deputy is aware, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers two schemes:
- the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted and
- the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted on Prison Officers.
The Tribunal is made up qualified barristers and solicitors. Under the terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is limited to a Chair and 6 ordinary members who provide services on a part-time basis. It is entirely independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications for compensation.
Any decision to recruit a greater number of solicitors and barristers to service the Tribunal’s needs would amount to a Scheme change. I have asked my officials to consider this issue further.
I can confirm that five Departmental staff act as Secretariat to the Tribunal. These staff receive applications and gather the necessary information from applicants and other stakeholders such as An Garda Síochána in relation to each case. When all required information is available, Tribunal staff send the file to the Tribunal for consideration and decision. Where a decision is appealed, Tribunal staff make arrangements for a Tribunal appeal hearing.
In terms of the duration of the process, I should note that it may take several years before an application for compensation is ready for submission to the Tribunal for consideration and decision. 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. These and other factors can have an impact on the duration of any particular application.
An assessment is currently being carried out by officials of my Department in relation to caseload in the scheme, including the extent and nature of any possible backlog.
Finally, the Deputy may be interested to know that in its fifth work programme, published in March 2019, the Law Reform Commission included a review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as one of 15 planned projects. 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 society's needs into the future.