Crime victims owed £2.3m as criminals ignore court orders to pay compensation

Adam Little
Adam Little
  • Huge £2,371,489 victim compensation left unpaid in 2013/14
  • Criminals can have cash taken from benefits, goods seized or be sent to prison
  • Court service admits collection performance needs to improve
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VICTIMS are owed £2.3m by criminals who have failed to pay compensation ordered by courts, The News can reveal.

The huge figure has been branded an insult to victims by a support charity and a man owed cash says it is unacceptable.

It’s ridiculous – it’s been a long, long time since anything has happened

Adam Little

On average £850,000 has been collected each year by court enforcement in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

But the amount outstanding was £2.3m in 2013/14 and previously £2.5m in both 2012/13 and 2011/12.

Adam Little was a victim of crime after his property was damaged in 2011 and was awarded £250 in compensation by magistrates but has received nothing.

The 31-year-old, of Laburnum Grove, North End, Portsmouth, said: ‘No-one is willing to help. I’ve received a cheque for £7.64 which bounced – it’s very frustrating.

‘It’s ridiculous – it’s been a long, long time since anything has happened. I’ve chased up these people who are not doing anything.’

Mr Little was amazed to hear the amount left unpaid and said: ‘It’s disgusting.’

The Ministry of Justice said it takes financial penalty enforcement seriously and is clamping down on defaulters.

Figures were released five months after The News submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in November last year.

Liessa Mallinson, deputy contract manager at Hampshire Victim Support, said compensation is a problem.

‘Nothing truly compensates for the impact of the crime,’ she said.

‘Most victims won’t get closure through that.

‘But it can be a double insult if they don’t get it.

‘There’s nothing they can do – it’s up to the court.

‘It’s a big problem, a very big problem.’

In its defence, the court service said that nationally its enforcement team collected £290m in 2013/14.

‘On average over the past 12 months 70 per cent of accounts have been either closed or are compliant with payment terms by 12 months after imposition,’ a note on the figures said.

In comparison to the £2.3m outstanding in 2013/14 in Hampshire, there was £748,188 outstanding in Dorset and £617,767 in Wiltshire.

Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes said: ‘Outstanding compensation for a victim is always regrettable and I would hope that the system would pursue offenders as vigorously as possible.

‘We do know that sometimes criminals don’t have the wherewithal to pay.

‘We know offenders go into prison and don’t have a job and can’t pay.

‘I would be very concerned if offenders who had assets weren’t pursued.

Police are often awarded compensation by courts if injured while working,

John Apter represents rank and file officers as Hampshire Police Federation chairman. He said members of the public who do not get cash owed to them are ‘becoming victims again.’

Mr Apter said officers are keen to see the assault punished, and do not seek the cash. ‘It’s not about the money, it’s about the recognition,’ he said.

The Ministry of Justice said it could not provide a statement ahead of the general election.

But previously a spokeswoman said more needed to be done in Mr Little’s case.

She said: ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service uses all means at its disposal to ensure compensation ordered by the court is paid.

‘Money can be taken from an offender’s earnings or from benefits if they are unemployed.

‘Warrants can be issued instructing court-employed agents to seize and sell goods belonging to the offender.

‘Ultimately an offender can be imprisoned for non-payment. However, we recognise that more must be done to improve performance.’

She added HMCTS plans to bring in an external provider to carry out enforcement with new technology increasing collections.

Aside from compensation, £11m of fines were imposed in 2013/14 in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight with £4m of that collected, while £8.4m in fines was collected that year.

Courts can order a criminal to pay compensation when they are sentenced.

Magistrates can make orders up to £5,000 – or higher in the case of the most serious offence – while crown court judges have unlimited powers.

Criminals can pay in instalments with the agreement of the court or have deductions made from benefits. This compensation is separate from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

That is for claims from victims of violent crime who were injured physically or mentally.

Victim Adam chased his payout through the court

DETERMINED not to let his £250 compensation go unclaimed, Adam Little chased the courts.

He bombarded the email inbox of anyone and everyone he could find, furious that his cash was unpaid.

But his repeated requests for updates on his case after his property was damaged provoked a fiery response from an enforcement manager at HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

In an email seen by The News, the manager told Mr Little: ‘We collected £8.5m last year (2013) in fines, costs and compensation which was £1m more than the previous and in the financial year to date we have also collected 16 per cent more.

‘I’m genuinely sorry that your compensation is not included in that collection figure.

‘Some debt is harder to collect than others because not every defaulter has the same profile but, regretfully, you are not the only victim whose compensation has not been paid.

‘There are others who have far bigger sums outstanding over a longer period of time and they are equally disappointed and frustrated at the slow pace of having their compensation paid but they have not adopted this incessant approach to sending e-mail after e-mail in the hope that an immediate change in legislation is going to enable swifter collection or that this office will react by putting extra resources or applying pressure elsewhere to your case.’