Thursday 25 December 2014

Criminal injuries spend triples in just 12 months

SAM GRIFFIN

Published 12/01/2014 | 02:30

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter at the Fine Gael National Conference in the South Court hotel in Limerick, yesterday.
Photo: Tony Gavin 12/10/2013
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The budget for a government compensation scheme for families of murder victims almost tripled last year after it emerged there have been massive delays in awarding compensation.

The problems with the scheme were highlighted by one mother, who was facing a three-year wait to receive a €31,000 payment following the murder of her son in January 2011 and so cannot afford a headstone for his grave.

Figures released to the Sunday Independent reveal the budget for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, a scheme operated by the Department of Justice, was €11.297m in 2013 after 396 separate payments were made.

The budget for the previous four years was around €4m every year.

A spokesperson for the department said a number of serious injury applications came before the scheme's tribunal in 2012, resulting in very high awards.

"Two awards accepted in late 2012 amounted to €4,083,579.12 while the amount made available to the Tribunal in 2012 was €4.237m," the spokesperson told the Sunday Independent in explanation for the dram-atic rise in the budget for 2013.

"At that stage the budget for 2013 had already been decided and the earliest stage when additional funding could be made available arose when the Technical Supplementary Estimate became possible."

The scheme received this supplementary estimate of €7.3m in November last year.

A provision within the scheme says the payment of compensation is "cash lim-ited" and that expenditure by the scheme cannot exceed the yearly budget, which is why payments were carried over to 2013.

However, the scheme only received 229 applications for compensation throughout the whole of last year and paid out 396 successful applications.

This indicates a huge tranche of payments were made last year to families of victims where payment had been granted but there were insufficient funds wit-hin the scheme to issue the payments.

The department said it could not provide information on what the average waiting time to receive pay- ment was but said there were only two cases where compensation was outstanding and that payment would be made before the end of this month.

However one woman, Geraldine Essalhi, told the Sunday Independent how she has been waiting three years for €31,000 compensation following the murder of her son Adel in January 2011.

Mrs Essalhi has been unable to afford a headstone for her son's grave and remains thousands of euro in debt owed to friends and a money collector.

"It's not right that I should have to wait for this money, It's just not right," she said.

"I still haven't been able to pay for my son's funeral or a headstone. I've been able to pay some of it back but not all of it.

Mrs Essalhi has taken a case against the Government in order to force them to hand over the compensation. She said she was unaware if she was one off the two outstanding cases mentioned by the department spokesperson, but said she had not been informed she would be receiving any compensation by the end of the month.

Another man, Bernard Sheridan, said he received a letter in November 2010 to say he had been awarded compensation following the murder of his brother Dermot in 2007 but by July had yet to receive the award.

Earlier this year a spokesperson for the Department said it was aware of successful applicants who had been waiting 14 months for payment.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was set up in 1972 and in the last five years has paid out almost €30m in compensation in more than 1,100 cases.

In addition to paying compensation for families of murder victims, anyone who suffers injury in a criminal attack or who sustains injuries trying to prevent a crime or save a life can also apply for compensation.

Irish Independent

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