Damages delay for victims of violence

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Victims of violent crimes are waiting up to two years for compensation, the Government's spending watchdog reveals today.

Victims of violent crimes are waiting up to two years for compensation, the Government's spending watchdog reveals today.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme must modernise itself and should consider setting up a telephone call centre so victims can obtain swift, clear advice, the National Audit Office says.

In its first inquiry into the scheme, the audit office found that victims had to wait on average a year for their cases to be resolved, and more than two years if they go to appeal.

The office also expresses concern at wide variations in the proportion of victims who apply for compensation in different parts of the country. People in Lancashire and Merseyside are seven times more likely to apply than those in Bedfordshire or Grampian, it says.

David Davis, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said the scheme's organisers must act to counter delays. "It cannot be right that individuals, some of whom may have suffered horrendous injuries, have to wait on average a year for their case to be resolved," he said. "It is also essential that applicants are kept informed about the progress of their claims and, if they are unsuccessful, told the reasons why in plain English so there are no misunderstandings."

The office highlighted one case in which a victim applied for compensation, was turned down, applied unsuccessfully for a review of the decision and finally went to a full appeal panel before being told he was not eligible because he had suffered only a black eye.

More than 300,000 people are victims of violent crime each year, and in 1998-99, 78,900 applied for compensation. Of those, 46,000 received payments which averaged £4,200.

The office found that a quarter of applicants had been attacked in or near a pub, one in six had been attacked in the street, and one in 10 had been sexually assaulted.