Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


COMPENSATION TO CRIME VICTIMS


(22896)

13770/01

COM(01) 536


Green paper: Compensation to crime victims.
Legal base:
Document originated: 28 September 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 28 September 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 21 November 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 30 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: Not applicable
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but further information requested

The Green Paper and the Government's views

  13.1  The Green Paper on compensation to crime victims invites views on whether there should be a common minimum standard across the EU for state-paid compensation for crime victims, and, if so, what elements should be included. It also seeks views on ways of helping "cross-border" victims (those who suffer injury or loss in a Member State other than the one in which they normally live) to obtain compensation.

  13.2  The Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) tells us that the Home Secretary and the Ministers of the Scottish Executive are jointly responsible for oversight of the Great Britain Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and, subject to parliamentary approval, for setting the scheme rules. The scheme is administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel, an independent appellate body. There is a separate scheme in Northern Ireland which is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

  13.3  The Minister continues:

"Great Britain has had a criminal injuries compensation scheme since 1964, far longer than all other Member States....The consultation paper confirms (at paragraph 3.8) that the Great Britain Scheme remains by far the most generous in the EU, paying out more compensation than all the other EU countries added together. The Northern Ireland Scheme is also very generous by EU standards.

"A principal aim of the consultation document is to encourage Member States to consider adopting common minimum standards for compensating victims of crime who sustain injury in the member state. The standard might cover eligibility to compensation, what basic elements of compensation might be paid, and whether compensation from other sources or the applicant's conduct or behaviour should be taken into account.

"Since both UK schemes are already generous by comparison to other EU schemes, it seems unlikely that any minimum common standard(s) that might eventually be adopted could not be readily accommodated by the Great Britain Scheme or the Northern Ireland Scheme without extending their scope or cost.

"The consultation paper also invites views on improving arrangements for helping 'cross-border' victims of crime .... Under the Great Britain Scheme anyone sustaining injury in Great Britain is eligible to apply, but British nationals or residents injured abroad must look for compensation to the state where the offence occurred or to insurance arrangements. A number of other EU states have broadly similar arrangements.

"Against that background, the consultation document asks whether Member States would be prepared to consider arrangements to facilitate the transmission of applications from [their] nationals or residents to another Member State, and/or themselves pay compensation to [their] nationals or residents injured in another member state. These ideas may be less susceptible to consensus than a minimum common standard, and the Government will wish to see how the consultation develops. Any arrangement that added to the cost of the UK schemes would not be acceptable."

  13.4  The Minister also tells us that the Government mounted a major public consultation exercise on the Great Britain Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in 1999. This led to a package of improvements in April 2001, but the territorial scope of the scheme was left unchanged. The Government has stated more than once that the cost and the difficulty of investigating applications arising from incidents in other countries make it unwilling to extend the scope. It does not propose to consult on the Green Paper, since it already knows the views of those who seek further changes to the Great Britain scheme. The Commission has asked Member States to submit responses to the 15 questions in the paper before 31 January 2002.

Conclusion

  13.5  It appears likely that the issue of compensation for "cross-border" victims will provoke the most divergent views, and, like the Government, we will be interested in the outcome of the consultation on this matter.

  13.6  We ask the Minister whether the Ministers of the Scottish Executive and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will contribute to the Government's response to the Green Paper. We also ask to see a copy of the response.

  13.7  We clear the document.


 
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Prepared 17 December 2001