40-year-old criminal injuries case may proceed

Posted: 21st June 2012

A businessman who was five months old when his father was fatally stabbed more than 40 years ago has had his hopes of criminal injuries compensation boosted by the Court of Appeal.
The Court ruled that the facts of the case were so exceptional that waiver of the two-year time limit that normally applies in criminal injuries compensation cases would arguably be justified as reasonable and in the interests of justice.Scales
The 45-year-old management consultant and his sister were effectively orphaned in 1966 when the killing of their father caused their mother to suffer a nervous breakdown. They spent the remainder of their childhood in local authority care.
The claimant, who overcame his difficult childhood to forge a successful career, was never sure how his father died and, as police files on the incident were no longer available by the time he grew up, spent much of his life searching for information relating to the killing.
It was not until 2007 that a freedom of information request uncovered a cache of police documents dating from the 1960s in the National Archives, at Kew.
It emerged that his father's killer had been convicted of manslaughter and jailed in 1967. That prompted the claimant to make a "highly unusual" historical claim for compensation to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
Also claiming on behalf of his 46-year-old sister and mother, who was 21 at the time of the killing, the claimant sought a total of £85,000 for loss of dependency and the disruption caused by the split of the family.
His case fell at the first hurdle when CICA refused to waive the two-year time limit which generally applies to criminal injuries compensation claims. That refusal to consider the claimant’s case on its merits was later backed by the Lower and Upper Tribunals.
Now, however, the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) has given the claimant fresh hope by ordering the Upper Tribunal to review the case and reconsider whether the time limit should be waived and the family's compensation claim given a full hearing.
Although it was more than 40 years since the killing, the Court recognised the unique facts of the case and found it arguable that the two-year time limit should be waived if it is ‘reasonable and in the interests of justice to do so’.
Lord Justice Aikens, sitting with Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice McFarlane, said that the mental health problems suffered by the claimant’s sister and mother since the killing gave them an "even stronger” case that the time limit should not be strictly applied to them.
The Court heard the claimant’s father was stabbed to death in December 1966. The claimant was five months old at the time and his sister 22 months old.
The claimant’s counsel, Mr Christopher Buttler, told the Court: "All three members of the family were traumatised in different ways by what happened. The claimant did all he could possibly do to track down the information. It would be reasonable in the interests of justice to waive the time limit."
He said the compensation claim was made up of £5,500 each for the claimant, his sister and their 66-year-old mother, as well as £36,000 each for the claimant and his sister for the loss of their father's parental support.
The case will now return to the Upper Tribunal for reconsideration of whether the two-year time limit should be waived.