Britain now the world's compensation capital, with payouts set to keep rising

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The Independent Online

Britain has become the criminal injury compensation capital of the world, a report will confirm this week.

Britain has become the criminal injury compensation capital of the world, a report will confirm this week.

Last year Britain paid out £205m - the most in any one year and £30m more than the combined total of similar compensation programmes in the United States. Britain awards more compensation to victims of violent crime than any other country, the report says.

Howard Webber, the chief executive of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, said that compensation pay-outs would continue to rise. He said that increases in the set amounts paid to victims, due to come in to force next month, would contribute to this growth.

Compensation for many types of injuries will increase by up to 10 per cent, including for severe burns (from £30,000 to £33,000) and the loss of a hand or arm (£40,000 to £44,000). Other injuries have been reclassified so that, for example, those who suffered severe child sex abuse can receive £8,200 and those disfigured by facial scarring can receive £4,400.

One of the changes will enable homosexuals to claim compensation if their partner is killed. Another new category will allow people with HIV or Aids to receive a £22,000 pay-out, the same tariff as for the loss of sight in one eye, loss of a kidney, or rape with severe injury. The package will cost an estimated £20m a year on top of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority's £200m existing pay-outs.

Critics of the UK system claim that many seriously injured victims of crime are being undercompensated. Lisa Potts, 25, the former nursery nurse who was injured shielding children from an attacker at a Wolverhampton school, learnt last month that she would receive £49,000.

The CICA report, to be published this week, has also found that record numbers of people are falsely claiming criminal injury compensation.

Nearly 40,000 claims for a total of about £100m were rejected by the authority after its investigators discovered that many were from criminals, youths who had started the pub brawls they were claiming for, or people who had invented a violent crime. According to the CICAreport, the number of fraudulent claimants has doubled since 1998.

Among the cases is that of a woman who has been asked to repay £7,500 after falsely claiming she was raped by a tramp. Last year, a court found that Natalie Knighting, a 21-year-old with three children, had made up the story. She was jailed for six months.

Ms Knighting had won compensation from the CICA for the second time. She had been awarded the same amount of compensation for sexual assault as a child. So far, the authority has been unable to recover any money from her.

In another claim, a man was reported to Merseyside Police by the CICA after its investigators found that he could not have suffered child abuse because, by his own admission, he was not staying at the care home where he alleged the abuse had taken place.

Mr Webber of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board acknowledged that the number of "disallowed" claims had risen by more than 10,000 since 1998 and were now running at half of the total claims he received. Of the 38,157 disallowed applications for compensation, 5,082 included false claims for injuries that did "result from a crime of violence". Another 4,097 were made by claimants whom the police said provoked the fights that caused their injuries. And 2,766 were from convicted criminals.

A further 9,000 were refused because the claimant had declined to co-operate with the police in bringing the assailant to justice, and failed to report the attack to the police in "reasonable" time. Fraudulent claimants, including 29 people who had tried to claim twice for the same injury, had doubled in number in the past year.

Mr Webber said: "There's a whole spectrum of disallowed claims ranging from people who have made honest mistakes to fraudulent applications, which I hope we pick up."

He blamed the growth in false claims on a compensation culture, where people wrongly compare court-based awards to injury assessments. "We pay out tax-payers' money to innocent victims of violent crime."