June 3, 2020
Unsurprisingly it's been impossible to read the newspapers for several months, without seeing Coronavirus related headlines. To quote a by now, well-worn, but totally apt phrase:
'These are unprecedented times.'
However, amongst the more appalling of Covid19 related articles that have appeared in the last few months, have been those that have reported a rise in incidents of criminal assaults being made against emergency workers since lockdown began.
Last week a number of the national newspapers, including, The Guardian, reported that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC had recently appeared before the House of Commons Select Committee.
During the course of his appearance before MPs, the DPP told them that more than 300 prosecutions for assaults on emergency workers and police had been made during the first month of lockdown. He then went on to say that during April, 424 people in England and Wales had been charged with over 600 offences.
The DPP gave an assurance that coronavirus related assaults were being dealt with as a priority, despite the much-reduced court time available due to the COVID 19 crisis.
Mr Hill told the Committee:
"...we’ve identified particularly appalling conduct towards police, paramedics and nurses"
Criminal assaults on emergency workers are not a new phenomenon. Physical injuries caused by violent attacks on nurses and doctors at A&E departments, Firefighters attending the scenes of fires and Police officers in towns and cities around the country late at night, have long been regular occurrences. In normal times many of these incidents of violent crime being directed towards emergency workers, are alcohol-fuelled.
A 2015 report produced by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) 'Alcohol’s Impact on Emergency Services' contained some startling findings, including this:
"Perhaps the most shocking finding of our survey was how widespread drunken physical, sexual and verbal abuse of emergency services staff is. Again, police and ambulance crews suffer the worst. Three-quarters of police respondents, and half of ambulance respondents, had been injured in alcohol-related incidents. Between a third and a half of all service people had suffered sexual harassment or abuse at the hands of intoxicated members of the public. Ambulance staff were particularly at risk, with 51% reporting sexually-related incidents, but the numbers were concerningly high across all services."
Little surprise then that The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act was introduced by the government in November 2018. The key feature of this Act of Parliament was that it created a new aggravated offence of causing common assault against emergency workers, who were defined in the Act as being a:
- Person (other than a constable) who has the powers of a constable
- National Crime Agency officer
- Prison officer
- Person (other than a prison officer) employed or engaged to carry out functions in a custodial institution of a corresponding kind to those carried out by a prison officer
- Prisoner custody officer, so far as relating to the exercise of escort functions
- Custody officer, so far as relating to the exercise of escort functions
- Person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide, fire services or fire and rescue services
- Person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide, search services or rescue services (or both)
- Person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide NHS health services, or services in the support of the provision of NHS health services, and whose general activities in doing so involve face to face interaction with individuals receiving the services or with other members of the public.
The new offence of assaulting an emergency worker carries with it a maximum jail sentence that is double the length that could be handed down previously, for common assault i.e. 12 months instead of 6 months.
However, whilst the new criminal offence carries a higher penalty for those who carry out physical attacks on emergency workers, that doesn’t compensate in any way, the victim of the crime.
How can an emergency worker who has suffered injuries as a result of violent crime, get compensation?
There are a number of ways in which victims of assaults can get compensation for the injuries they have suffered:
- If someone is convicted of an assault, they may be ordered to pay the victim some compensation by the criminal court. However, this won’t be done if they are sent to prison. In any event, where an amount of compensation is ordered to be made by the Defendant, it will be limited in its amount and may even then, be subject to payment by instalment.
- The next option is to bring a civil claim against the person who carried out the assault. However, whilst this might in theory enable to victim of a physical assault or sexual assault, to be fully compensated for their injuries in line with Judicial Guidelines, the reality is that they may end up with nothing. A victim would need to take out court proceedings against the perpetrator of the crime. If that person is of limited means, then a any court judgment for compensation is likely to be meaningless, particularly if they go to prison for the assault (and thus have no means of earning money to pay the compensation).
- The most likely means of getting meaningful compensation following a criminal assault is for the victim of the crime to make a criminal injuries compensation claim, through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
What is a CICA claim?
It is a claim that is made possible as a result of a government-run scheme that was set up with the aim of ensuring that the innocent victims of violent crime, don’t go uncompensated.
When someone suffers injury – physical or mental - as a result of violent crime, they are entitled to make a claim to the CICA for an award under the scheme. The maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded under the scheme for injuries sustained in an assault is £500,000. Therefore, even if a person suffers multiple injuries, the total amount that they will receive in compensation from the authority will be capped at £500,000.
In practice, it’s very rare that awards under the scheme are for anything like the maximum amount. The amounts payable for each type of possible injury are determined by a table of tariffs. The minimum award is £1000, meaning that very minor injuries would not be covered by the scheme
Who can make a CICA claim?
Any person who has suffered a physical or psychological injury (or both) as a result of violent crime may make a claim under the scheme if:
- The criminal incident that led to the person being injured was reported as soon as reasonably possible to the police.
- The injuries would attract an award of more than £1000.
- The incident happened within the last 2 years (although it’s advisable to start a CICA claim as soon after the incident as possible). This time limit may be waived in certain circumstances. The most common exception giving rise to a waiver is in cases of sexual assault or abuse (both of which are covered under the scheme).
- The criminal incident must have happened in England, Wales or Scotland.
Note - It’s possible to claim for loss of earnings suffered as a result of injuries sustained in the attack, on top of the compensation award for injury.
Claims for compensation under the CICA scheme may be refused due to:
- The claimant's own behaviour during or after the incident in which they suffered injuries
- The claimant having a relevant criminal record
- The claimant failing to co-operate with the CICA (or the police).
Does the person who carried out the assault have to have been convicted before a CICA claim can be successful?
No, as long as the incident has been reported to the police within a reasonable period after the incident, a successful claim to the CICA does not depend on anyone being convicted or even charged. It is even possible to be successful with a Criminal Injuries claim through the scheme, even if the person responsible for a CICA claimant's injuries, has never been caught.
Should I make a CICA claim if I’ve been injured in an assault?
Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. That is what the CICA scheme is there for!
The focus of this article has been on the ways emergency workers can seek compensation for physical assaults, sexual assaults or assaults causing psychological injury following criminal attacks on them. However, the same principles and resources to compensation apply to any member of the public who is injured during an assault on them.
A CICA claim is the surest way of obtaining criminal injuries compensation. Whilst a civil claim for damages following an assault might result in a higher award of compensation than the same injuries using the CICA scheme would, the chances of actually getting the compensation are much higher in the case of the latter.
A CICA claim usually takes about 12 months according to the scheme’s guidelines. Cases can go on for longer though, but most scheme settlement s will have been achieved within 18 months to 2 years after the claim has been started.
Do I need a solicitor to help me make a CICA claim?
No, you don’t have to use a solicitor. However, at Spencers Solicitors we have had years of experience of helping people to get very satisfactory criminal injuries compensation settlements under the CICA scheme.
After a violent assault, dealing with something like a CICA claim, that brings back some traumatic and awful memories, is likely to be the last thing that you feel like doing. Putting your trust in specialist CICA claims solicitors such as Spencers, will help to remove a weight from your shoulders, allowing you to concentrate on recovering from your injuries, getting over the assault and getting on with your life. Let us concentrate on getting the maximum assault compensation that we can, for you!
If you would like to get legal advice about making a criminal injuries compensation claim, then please call 08000 93 00 94 for some entirely free of charge initial advice. If after speaking to one of our solicitors, you decide that you would like us to help you to make the CICA claim on your behalf we'll be pleased to do so. In most cases we will be able to carry out the work for you, using a No Win, No Agreement.
Sarah Schoolar – Personal Injury Litigator
Sarah is a Chartered Legal Executive within our Personal Injury Team.
Sarah has an extensive background in dealing with personal injury including handling road traffic accidents, accidents at work, occupiers liability, public liability and criminal injury compensation claims (CICA).
Sarah became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives in 2015 and has over 12 years of experience in injury claims.