Law Report: Nil compensation for criminal injury quashed: Regina v Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, ex parte Gambles. Queen's Bench Division (Mr Justice Sedley), 3 December 1993

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If the board decides that the conduct of an applicant for compensation for criminal injuries made a full award inappropriate, then it must state to what extent the applicant's conduct impacted on the appropriateness of an award before it concluded that a nil award was appropriate.

Mr Justice Sedley quashed the board's refusal to award compensation to the applicant, Andrew Wayne Gambles. The applicant had been drinking with friends, one of whom was hit. He confronted the aggressor and suffered serious lacerations on the face from a broken beer glass. The board considered the appropriateness of a reduced award but found that the applicant had evinced a willingness to engage in violence which culminated in the assault on him. It disallowed his application for compensation under paragraph 6(c) of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board Scheme 1979, which provides that the board may withdraw or reduce compensation if it considers that, having regard to the conduct of the applicant before, during or after the events, it is inappropriate that a full award, or any award at all, be granted.

Richard Drabble (Arthur Smith & Broadie-Griffith, Wigan) for the applicant; Michael Kent (Treasury Solicitor) for the board.

MR JUSTICE SEDLEY said that all the possible levels of award lay within the range of decision compatible with the finding that the applicant was ready to fight in the material circumstances.

It was for the board to establish a rational and proportionate nexus between the conduct of the applicant before and during that could reduce or extinguish the award to which he would otherwise be entitled.

The board, in such a case as this, had to proceed in three stages: (a) Did the applicant's conduct make a full award inappropriate? (b) If so, to what extent did the applicant's conduct impact on the appropriateness of an award? (c) What award if any should the applicant consequently receive?

The board's reasoning went from (a) to (c), omitting (b) entirely. It was not right for the court to supply the want by assuming the existence of the very thing that reasons were there to demonstrate, namely that the conclusion had been reached by an appropriate process of reasoning from the facts. There was a defect in the board's reasoning such that its decision could not stand.