Government cuts to hit victims of violent crime – including dog attack victims
24th July 2012
Thousands of innocent victims of crime are set to lose out on
modest compensation if government plans go ahead to change the
Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which is being debated in
the House of Lords tomorrow (Wednesday). Victims of dog attacks -
like those in St Leonards on Sea on Sunday - and victims of assault
are among those who will be affected.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) is the last
place that many victims of crime can turn for compensation if they
are unable to bring a criminal prosecution or if the person
responsible has no assets. Awards are generally modest - a few
thousand pounds - and are strictly policed, with over half (52 per
cent) being rejected. The cost of the scheme has remained stable
over the last four years. CWU members, including postal workers,
telecom engineers and shop workers in customer-facing roles are all
Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary,
said: "This is a cut too far, taking compensation from the
victims of crime who are most vulnerable.
"The Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme is the last safety
net for many victims of crime who are unable to receive
compensation through other means. Often this happens when the
attacker or dog owner is on benefits and has no assets, so even a
successful prosecution does not guarantee any compensation for the
victim. That's where the CICS comes into play.
"If the owners of the out-of-control dogs in St Leonards on
Sea end up having no assets then the 10 or so people who have
suffered severe injuries would receive no compensation under the
government's latest cuts proposals. These are innocent victims
needing hospital treatment for criminal injuries. This move will
mean abandoning people when they are at their most vulnerable and
it must be stopped."
Paul Coleman, a Royal Mail postman in
Sheffield, suffered a horrific dog attack in December 2007 when
delivering mail. According to witnesses, the two bulldog terriers
grabbed a leg each, dragged him to the ground and subjected him to
a horrifying prolonged attack. Paul suffered serious leg, arm and
chest injuries and was in hospital for six days, undergoing skin
grafts and plastic surgery. At one stage, doctors feared that he
could lose his right arm, in which significant nerve and muscle
damage occurred. Surgeons managed to save it, but Paul has
permanent scarring and suffers reduced mobility.
Paul won a court case against the owner of the dog, who was
jailed for nine months, and was awarded damages and compensation.
But because the dog owner was unemployed and had no assets Paul
received nothing. He applied to the CICS and eventually received
£7,500, not much considering the injuries he has to live with
for the rest of his life. Under the government's proposed
changes Paul wouldn't be allowed to apply to CICS and would
have been left with nowhere to turn.
CWU wants to see changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act to improve
responsible dog ownership and reduce the number of serious dog
attacks. Over the last five years around 5,000 dog attacks on
postal workers have taken place each year - a number which rises to
almost 6,000 when telecom engineers are added in. This dropped to
3,100 for postal workers in the last year to April 2012 but remains
far too high. CWU is working with the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs and
Cats Home, Association of Chief Police Officers, Dog Wardens
Association, Kennel Club, Dogs Trust and other interested parties
to lobby for changes to the law, including extending the law to
private property, bringing in compulsory microchipping and greater
powers for enforces such as Dog Control Notices.
For more visit CWU's Bite Back campaign.