Courts have the power to require offenders to pay compensation to their victims for any injury, loss or damage caused by the offence. Courts also have robust powers to recover unpaid compensation orders and other financial penalties.
The Government are committed to ensuring that as many victims as possible receive compensation from offenders. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 places a new duty on courts to consider imposing compensation in any case where the victim has suffered injury, loss or damage. Issuing guidance to courts is a matter for the independent Sentencing Council, not for the Government, but the council’s guidelines already draw the courts’ attention to their powers to impose compensation.
To what extent is this form of compensation a substitute for the criminal injuries compensation scheme, which has been cut to ribbons by the order laid in July this year?
Criminal injuries compensation is state-funded compensation. This is offender-funded compensation; it is completely different.
Would the Minister be open to fresh thinking on this? If, for example, prisoners were given the opportunity to work, earn and keep money for themselves and their families, perhaps they could pay back some of that money to the victims of their crime and also pay tax on it, which would be of benefit to the public, as well as having a rehabilitative effect.
For a long time, victims have felt completely unsupported by the criminal justice system, and it is my job, as victims Minister, to try and put that right. I am glad to have the opportunity to do so. We are raising money for victims through the victims surcharge and the Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996, and we are giving victims a louder voice through the appointment of a victims’ commissioner. I look forward to making that appointment, and meeting and working with the commissioner.