Criminal injury news

 

Thames Valley Air Ambulance

I had the pleasure of visiting Thames Valley Air Ambulance at RAF Benson to see the fantastic work they do in providing life-saving care to the most seriously injured or ill people. Each day an average of 3 people in the Thames Valley region will find themselves in a life-threatening situation which requires urgent, high quality medical treatment.

TVAA is a charity which has been running since 2000, providing emergency medical care for around 2 million people that live, work and travel in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The charity operates 365 days of the year and, in partnership with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, they provide 19 hours cover per day. They operate a vehicle which is a vital part of the service and both are equipped with the latest life-saving medical devices. In Spring 2016, they began night operations until 2am across the region.

I was privileged to meet some of the dedicated paramedics and their clinical lead, Dr Syed Masud, who is passionate about making sure that the public receive the best care possible at their greatest time of need. Dr Masud told me that the first 30 minutes of treatment are vital for a patient and has a huge impact on the long term outcome for patients.

Not surprisingly, survival rates are increasing because of this medical expertise.

Drinking alcohol when pregnant could become a criminal offence

A council in the North West of England is seeking criminal injuries compensation after a six-year-old girl was left with growth problems caused by her mother’s excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

If the Court of Appeal rules that the woman in question committed a crime then it can be argued that it paves the way ahead for future criminalization of pregnant women.

In this case a girl who is now six-years old was born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes retarded growth, face abnormalities and intellectual impairment.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was diagnosed 252 times in England in 2012 and 2013.

The Upper Tribunal of the Administrative Appeals Chamber ruled that the girl was born with FAS as “a direct result” of her mother’s drinking but it was added: ”If (the girl) was not a person while her mother was engaging in the relevant actions then… as a matter of law, her mother could not have committed a criminal offence.”

In January the local authority lawyers had failed to get compensation on the child’s behalf from the Criminal Injuries Authority (CICA). They are now trying to prove that the girl’s mother was criminally negligent under the Offences Against the Person’s Act 1861.

Women’s charities claim that mothers and their babies would not be best served by treating pregnant women with drug or alcohol abuse problems as criminals.

Current NHS guidance says women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether. But if they choose to drink it recommends they should not have more than one or two units once or twice a week.

The ruling of the Court of Appeal is awaited.

Metropolitan police liable for breach of human rights with sexual assault victims

The High Court has recently ruled that the Metropolitan Police was liable to claim for failures in its investigation for sexual assault for breaches of the Human Rights Act in its treatment of two women.

Two women were seriously sexually assaulted by a London cab driver who was jailed for life in 2009.

The two women were victims of a sexual assault by the cab driver in 2003 and 2007.  Both attacks were reported to the Metropolitan Police. However the first woman alleged she suffered a depressive disorder as a result of inhuman and/or degrading treatment by Officers during the 2003 investigation while the second woman claimed she suffered serious distress, anxiety, guilt and an exacerbation of post traumatic stress disorder and depression as a result of her treatment during a 2007 investigation.

The women allege that the Metropolitan Police failed to conduct a reasonable and efficient investigation into the assaults and as a result failed to secure the cab drivers conviction for an unreasonably long period of time.

Mr Justice Green ruled that the Police were liable to the women for failures in its investigation and for the trauma they subsequently experienced.

The Court Judge found that there had been:

“A series of systemic failings which went to the heart of the failure of the Police to apprehend the cab driver and cut short his 5 to 6 year spree of violent attacks”.

The Judge found there was a substantial failure to train relevant Officers in the intricacies of sexual assaults and in particular drug facilitated sexual assaults and serious failures by senior officers properly to supervise the investigations by more junior officers and to ensure they were conducting investigations in accordance with the standard procedure.

The two womens damages will now be assessed.

Rottweiler attack victim unable to claim compensation

There has been much in the Reading press recently about an elderly man treated in hospital after he was attacked by two Rottweilers in Cintra Park, Reading in June.

The pensioner was in the park when he saw three teenagers with the dogs which were then let off their leads and came bounding over to him. One of them bit him on the left arm, drawing blood.

The police are appealing for witnesses, but to date the dogs’ owners have not been traced.

What can be done in those circumstances? Unfortunately, unless the owners can be found then there is no claim which can be brought. Although the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board was set up to assist the victims of crime it would have to be shown that the act was deliberate – that the owners set the dogs on the man – or that they were criminally reckless in releasing dogs which they knew or ought to have known were likely to attack other park users. So far there would appear to be no evidence of any criminal intent or recklessness.

If the dog owners can be identified then it might be possible to claim against them. If the teenagers were under 16 then the head of the household in which they live will be responsible and they may well have household contents or other insurance which covers such a claim.

The owner or keeper of the dog may be liable under the Animals Act 1971, or in negligence, but to bring a claim under the Act the injured person has to show that the damage was of a kind that the animal was likely to cause unless it was restrained, that any such damage was likely to be severe, and that the dog had certain characteristics that made it more dangerous AND that these characteristics were known to its keeper.

In these particular circumstances the dog was a Rottweiler – a breed likely to cause severe damage if it did bite –  but there are many Rottweilers who do not routinely bite when off the lead and there would also be a requirement to prove that the owner knew that the dog was prone to biting in these circumstances. Evidence of previous attacks would be the obvious line of investigation.

Crime victims see compensation slashed

Victims of violent crime who suffer minor injuries will no longer be eligible for compensation following changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICA).

In September 2012 the Justice Minister Helen Grant had promised to reconsider plans to reform the CICA scheme including the scrapping of five payment levels following protests by unions and Victim Support groups. However, despite her promise, the plans were approved at parliamentary committee stage at the beginning of November 2012.

The Ministry of Justice insists it is still “preserving compensation to the most seriously injured victims“.

Kim Sme​rdon, a solicitor specialising in CICA claims, commented: “The changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme mean that compensation is restricted to those who suffer very serious injuries. It is estimated that the changes will reduce the annual £450m bill by approximately £50m. Whilst we support the effort to preserve compensation for the most seriously injured victims of crime, we are very concerned that approximately 90% of innocent victims of crime may no longer receive compensation as a result of their injuries. Although the Ministry of Justice has stated that, from December, courts must consider imposing a compensation order as part of criminal sentences, and where they have caused injury, this is unlikely to assist victims of crime who have to take time off work because of their injuries and are not covered by a sick pay scheme. We understand that a £500,000 hardship fund will be created but this is likely to be used very quickly.”

Backtrack on CICA reforms

In a dramatic turnaround,  the Government has announced a rethink of its plans to reform the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority Scheme.

Personal injury lawyers and workers unions had expressed great concern following publication in January 2012 of the Ministry of Justice’s consultation document “Getting it right for victims and witnesses” which threatened to end compensation payments for crime victims for claims below £2,500, to exclude victims of animal attacks from compensation and to significantly reduce payments for claims below £11,000.

Kim Smerdon, a specialist Personal Injury solicitor at Boyes Turner, commented: “Just 3 days after announcing her backing of the government’s proposals for cutting compensation for victims who claim less than £2,500, Justice Minister Helen Grant’s Department has apparently had a change of heart. It is important that we continue to support victims of crime and oppose changes which will deny innocent people vital compensation which helps them at a distressing time of their lives. We are committed to ensuring that innocent victims are properly compensated when they are injured whether through the CICA scheme or by a civil claim.”

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority shake up

The Ministry of Justice has announced proposals in its consultation document “Getting it right for victims and witnesses” to end compensation payments for crime victims for claims below £2,500 and to significantly reduce payments for claims below £11,000. There will be a reduced cap for loss of earnings claims and applicants will have to pay to obtain initial medical evidence.

The maximum award of £50,000 has not been increased for 16 years and where seriously injured individuals require ongoing care this is not enough in most cases to meet their needs.

Kim Smerdon, a specialist Personal Injury solicitor with Boyes Turner, commented:

“The Government is pressing ahead with its reforms of civil justice but must take care to ensure that innocent victims of crime receive full compensation and proper recognition of the crime which has been committed against them. In a civilised society the state must recognise these sorts of crimes as evidence of failure to protect its citizens and attempt to redress the wrong with financial compensation. We are monitoring the consultation process and will continue to advise victims of crime of how best to achieve maximum compensation through the CICA scheme.”

The service was personal, professional and considered. I was treated so kindly and in the end I knew that not only had I found the right organisation but also the right person.

Boyes Turner client

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