The number of members on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is to be doubled from seven to 14, as part of a reform of how the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme will operate.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee yesterday (20 April) published details of the changes to the scheme, which provides compensation to victims of violent crime in the State. It has been in place since 1974 and up until now has been revised only once, in 1986.
The minister (pictured) said the moves were just the first step in a series of reforms, with further changes planned before the end of the year.
These include an analysis of whether there should be an upper limit on awards. The Law Reform Commission is also looking at the scheme.
No big costs increase
Minister McEntee said the Government had agreed in principle that the scheme should operate on a statutory basis, and she is due to return to the Cabinet once the General Scheme of a bill has been drafted.
The increase in membership of the tribunal which administers the scheme is aimed at speeding up processing and decision-making.
The Department of Justice says this is unlikely to increase costs significantly as members are practising barristers and solicitors who provide services on a part-time basis.
Other key changes include an explicit provision that the solatium (a payment in respect of mental distress) may be awarded to dependants of fatally injured victims of crime.
The solatium is provided for under section 49 of the Civil Liabilities Act and currently is set at €35,000.
Applicants will now be made aware that tribunal decisions may be made publicly available, with appropriate redactions.
This change will give effect to a recent court judgment that indicated that applicants should have access to past decisions in certain instances.
Other changes include:
- Notwithstanding a three-month limit for the submission of applications, the tribunal will be able to accept applications on an exceptional basis for up to two years after an incident,
- The minimum level of award payable under the scheme is increased from £50 to €500 and the level of award which may be sanctioned by an authorised officer of the tribunal is increased from £250 to €3,000,
- The crime can be reported to either the gardaí or the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, where it involves an alleged crime committed by a member of an Garda Síochána,
- Paragraph 10 of the scheme, which prevented awards being made where the crime was committed by a member of the same household, is being removed,
- Future decisions on potentially large awards of more €75,000 or more are to be decided at first instance by three tribunal members, rather than one.