The CICA claim scheme excludes awards of compensation where an applicant has an unspent conviction which resulted in a custodial or community service sentence. Lawyer Liz Duncan reviews an unsuccessful challenge by three applicants.
The CICA's policy to deny compensation to those with unspent convictions can result in an unjust situations arising where the applicant's criminal record is caused by the circumstances that gave rise to the claim in the first place. For instance a victim of sex abuse can be denied compensation because of convictions which have arisen as a direct result of the abuse they have suffered and the psychological impact of the abuse upon them.
It was recently argued that this exclusion was contrary to the human rights of the applicant. The case of R (on the application of McNiece) v CICA  EWHC 2. involved three separate applicants, all of whom were appealing decisions to refuse them compensation because of previous criminal convictions. The CICA’s 2012 scheme - the scheme that applies to current applications for compensation - has a blanket ban on making awards to applicants who have an “unspent” conviction at the time they make their application or at any point over the life of their claim. For example, if an application is made and the applicant is then convicted of a relevant offence before the CICA has made an award that conviction will result in their claim being rejected. Under previous schemes the CICA had discretion in relation to convictions, but this changed when the 2012 scheme was introduced.
The case concerned three applicants to whom this exclusion had been applied. They argued that the exclusion was against their human rights on the basis that their convictions were caused by the very circumstances that were the subject of the claim itself. The applicants accepted that the refusal to make awards was in line with the 2012 CICA scheme, but argued that the scheme itself was unlawful.
Unfortunately their argument failed, with the court saying that although this aspect of the scheme was probably discriminatory under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights it was reasonably justifiable because money from a taxpayer funded scheme should not be directed towards people who have cost society money as a result of their offences.
In this case one applicant had suffered a personality change following a serious head injury sustained when he was attacked with a golf club. He was then involved in an altercation and received a community sentence. The other two applicants had both been trafficked to the UK and subjected to labour exploitation and abuse. Their traffickers were convicted of a number of offences against them. Slavery and trafficking prevention orders were also made. The offences committed by these two applicants were burglary and theft. The crimes occurred during the time when the applicants were subject to exploitation and abuse. Nevertheless the court said that this did not alter the position and they were denied compensation.
It can be difficult to work out exactly when convictions become spent and therefore whether someone’s CICA application will fail as a result of them. At Slee Blackwell our team of specialist lawyers are experienced at dealing with CICA claims and will be able to advise on your position if you are concerned about any criminal convictions you may have.
Call our FREE CICA Claim helpline now on 0800 037 8020 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org