Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has announced radical changes to the criminal injuries compensation scheme. This pays out to people who have received injuries as a result of being the victim of crime.
The changes will mean that more people with minor injuries will be entitled to nothing, and even those suffering massive and life-altering injuries will receive less. So why are they worth less now?
No compensationThe revamp of the system will remove around 17,000 victims of violent crime from it altogether. This will include those suffering traumatic injuries such as broken hands, dislocated jaws and those who need knee surgery as a result of the crime.
It will also slash payouts for another 12,000 victims by around 25%. Those caught by the cuts will include those who suffer minor brain damage, or bone fractures that leave them with a permanent disability.
Perhaps less controversially, payments will also be blocked entirely to previous offenders.
However, it seems bizarre that the government can consider brain damage to be worth one sum of money one day, and then 25% less the next day, but Clarke says these cuts are essential if the scheme is to be 'economically sustainable'.
Cutting costsThe scheme currently costs £200 million a year, and Clarke is looking to cut that by £95 million. Up to £45 million of that will come from the cuts. The idea is to cut payouts for those things considered less severe, so the government can maintain payments to more serious cases, including the families of murder victims.
The other £50 million will come from forcing the criminals to pay more. The 'victim's surcharge' will rise to between £20 and £120 depending on the severity of the crime.
AlternativesThe current levy on criminals stands at £120, raising the issue of how does the financial punishment fit the crime, particularly in the case of criminal acts which permanently disable the victim. If the levy was doubled, would these cuts be necessary?
Of course, by the same token, if the Justice Minister hadn't spent £43 million on consultants and advisers since he took the role on, then there would probably be a bit more to go around to the victims of crime too.
The cuts were part of an announcement which also said victims will have the right to make a personal statement in court, which is allowed to have an impact on sentencing for the first time. They can also request to meet with the offender in person.
But what do you think? Are these cuts fair? let us know in the comments.