HC Deb 28 April 1976 vol 910 cc91-2W
Mr. Russell Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether, in the assessment of compensation for criminal injuries in Northern Ireland, any account is taken of provocative or negligent behaviour by an applicant; and if he has any further statement to make on his current review of the schemes for compensation in respect of both persons and property.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Compensation for injuries to persons is governed by the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act (NI) 1968. Section 1(2) of the Act statesThe Court shall … have regard to all such circumstances as it considers relevant and, in particular, to any provocative or negligent behaviour of the victim which it is satisfied contributed, directly or indirectly, to his injury or death.

Compensation for damage to property is governed by the Criminal Injuries to Property (Compensation) Act (NI) 1971. This contains an analogous provision that the amount of compensation may be reduced in the light of the general conduct in the circumstances of the person suffering loss, including, in particular, his conduct as respects any precautions which might reasonably have been taken by him to avoid that loss.

It is clearly very important that these, and all others aspects of the working of the two Northern Ireland Compensation Acts, in the light of experience, should be thoroughly reviewed as soon as possible. And it is for this reason that I have asked the two committees which I have set up to let me have recommendations by the end of June, for personal injuries, and of July, for property.

I understand that both committees have already formed the view that changes would be appropriate in the operation of the existing schemes, and that they will be taking fully into consideration before they report not only such questions as provocation and negligence, but other fundamental questions, including the financing of the scheme, and the application of the present legislation to different categories of applicants. I welcome and approve the studies on these matters which these two committees are making.

I shall aim, in the light of the recommendations of each of the two committees on compensation in Northern Ireland, to be ready to initiate legislation separately in each area in the autumn. I shall of course take account as appropriate of the deliberations of the committee set up by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to examine the operation of the non-statutory scheme which applies in Great Britain.