Improving Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

February 7, 2022

People have experienced “significant delays” with getting applications processed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and the Ministry should “survey administrative tribunals and bodies to ascertain where economies of scale can be found” and provide a “permanent staff member for administrative support.”

This was from the report “A Future for Criminal Injuries Compensation” report by the Ombudsman of Bermuda Victoria Pearman, which was tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday [Feb 4].

Provide Compensation To Victims Of Crime

The report said, “The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is established to provide compensation to victims of crime who have suffered physical or mental harm as a result, or in case of their untimely passing, to the victim’s dependants, spouse or children. Its purpose is to provide some compensation to attempt to reflect this society’s sympathy and concern for such victims.

Significant Delays

“From information provided, my Office has had concerns about significant delays individuals have experienced in getting their applications processed by the Board.

“Problems with delay are not just about the money. The longer the process takes, the longer people have to wait for an outcome. Their personal life continues to be impacted and the delay hinders them from moving on with their lives. After the initial application, nothing is heard for a long time and then you wait and wait while reliving the whole incident.

On Top Of The Trauma, Length Of Process Is Ongoing Ordeal

“It is easy to overlook practical matters when looking at issues theoretically. On top of the trauma victims endured, the length and uncertainty of the process is an ongoing ordeal. Other practical considerations raised were that funds were allocated on a first come first served basis, if the budget is spent applicants have to wait for the next financial year. If people are waiting for years to have their application considered they may then have to wait even longer, until the next financial year before the award is actually paid.

Commenced An Own Motion Investigation

“We commenced an own motion investigation into the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and the Board to assist in our understanding of the issues. Our concern was that victims of crimes and their families were facing long periods of uncertainty in waiting for the result of their applications.

Budget Allotment Of $320,000

“The budget allotment of $320,000 is solely for the payment of awards. The Board does not have an operating budget specifically dedicated for administrative purposes.

Does Not Have A Website

“The Administrator indicated that the Board could benefit from some basic technological advances. It currently does not have a website. While there was some discussion about developing an online application form, the idea never progressed.

“The lack of an internet presence by an administrative tribunal that, ultimately, does front-line work is problematic. A website which provides general information about the Board and its work would help not just applicants, but those who assist them, including their legal representatives, in ascertaining reasonable expectations of likely outcomes.

Recommend Economies Of Scale & Staff Member For Administrative Support

“I recommend, the Ministry should briefly survey administrative tribunals and bodies to ascertain where economies of scale can be found. It may not be feasible to have one umbrella organisation, but cost savings might be realised through shared personnel, dedicated space for hearings, infrastructure, policies and procedures.

“I recommend that, in the present circumstances, the Ministry should provide to the Board a permanent staff member for administrative support.”

Office’s Comment

A spokesperson said, “The Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board have accepted that changes are needed.

“The Authority committed to implementing policies and procedures and an administrative framework for more timely and efficient resolution of applications. Greater fairness will be achieved by the recommended changes in the operation and actions of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

“The Office of the Ombudsman will continue to monitor and be engaged in the implementation of the recommendations in the Report for the benefit of applicants and the public interest generally.”

The full Ombudsman’s Special Report follows below [PDF here]:

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