Victim Compensation

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 13th November 2012.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham 11:30 am, 13th November 2012

If he will bring forward proposals to ensure that victims of crime receive compensation from those who committed the crime.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

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.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

Does the Minister agree that there should be a presumption in favour of the victims of crime receiving compensation from offenders? Will she be issuing any guidance to the courts to ensure that that happens?

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

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.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

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?

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

Criminal injuries compensation is state-funded compensation. This is offender-funded compensation; it is completely different.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere

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.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

I am happy to look at that if my hon. Friend writes to me.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

On 11 October 2011, when Louise Casey, the first victims commissioner, resigned, the former Lord Chancellor said that he was urgently considering the future of the role. Thirteen months on—yesterday, in fact—was the closing date for applications to be Ms Casey’s 10-day-a-month replacement. What signal does it send to victims that this Government first doubt the need for a commissioner, then delay appointing one for more than a year, and finally make it a half-hearted, part-time job?

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

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.