The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is facing allegations of discrimination against a claimant over a homophobic attack which resulted in a claim for criminal compensation, ultimately rejected by the CICA.
The Scotsman reports :
By SHÂN ROSS
A MAN who was subjected to a homophobic attack after being walked home from a night out says his claim for criminal compensation was rejected because he is gay.
Kenneth Neil claims that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has discriminated against him by implying that he must take some responsibility for allowing his male attacker into his home.
Neil, 38, from Glasgow, decided to speak out after reading about the homophobic murder of council worker James Kerr in Perth. The 51-year-old council worker was killed by two men as he walked through South Inch Park last year.
"It brought back to me how I thought I was going to die that night. Gay people keep quiet about violence because we don't want family and workmates to know about our private lives," says Neil, a team manager in a coffee shop.
"It has taken a lot for me to go public about my sexuality. I feel I have been met with cynicism by the CICA, who have made a value judgment I deserved what happened to me."
Neil's ordeal began after a night out in Ayr, where he lived at the time, in August 2004. After leaving Madison's nightclub in the town, he noticed a disabled man lying in the street and decided to help him home. A man walking past offered to help.
"We got the disabled man home and were near my flat when this man asked, 'Have you got any coffee in there?' I thought it was not too much to ask considering the assistance he had given." Mr Neil said.
"When I was in the kitchen he picked up a bottle of wine. The next thing I knew he had smashed it and I was being battered senseless. I put up my hand to protect myself and it caught me between my thumb and my first finger. My thumb and artery were hanging off and I was terrified he was going to kill me. He was shouting at me: 'You f****** poof, you f****** gay bastard; if I'd known you were gay I'd never have walked you home."
Neil's brother, who lived in the upstairs flat called the police. Neil stresses that the conduct of the police is not part of his complaint: "They were excellent and treated me with respect."
However, he says, "CICA have added insult to injury by sending me what looks like a jumbled computer-generated letter full of inaccuracies.
"They wrote that 'despite having walked home with the suspect and allowed him into your house' I was unable to identify my attacker. That implies I asked for it, something they would not dare say to a woman. As a matter of fact I identified him from the first lot of mugshots the police brought to my home.
"They also said there was no corroboration to the attack. How many people invite witnesses into their homes just so they can claim compensation later?
"Yet they admit that my attacker's DNA was matched to the bottle he attacked me with. It is completely nonsensical."
Responding to the complaint, a spokesman for the CICA says: "An applicant's sexuality plays absolutely no part in our decision making process. CICA decides each application for compensation under the rules of the 2001 Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as laid down by Parliament."
And he explains on what basis a judgment for compensation is made: "We base our decision on two key pieces of information: evidence of the attack from the police and medical evidence to assess the extent of an applicant's injuries. In each case we assess whether there is enough evidence to show that, on the balance of probabilities, a crime of violence took place."
Neil is appealing against the judgment and has indicated his determination to pursue the case to the House of Lords.
Tony Grew, editor of Pink News, the gay campaigning newspaper, says: "Mr Neil's report is not only brave but vital in giving the police and other authorities the proof they need that hate crimes are happening every day.
"Can you imagine them (the CICA] telling a pensioner that she should take some responsibility for being attacked because she let a bogus caller into her home?"
Grew continues: "It is clear that CICA staff are in need of some sexual orientation training. Staff in public bodies need to be aware they are here to serve everyone, not just people they approve of. I was not aware that making moral judgments was part of their remit."
Commenting on Neil's case, Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who is introducing a bill on hate crime, says: "I am very surprised if the idea that some prior relationship is used as an excuse to deny someone compensation. This would not be a defence in law.
"Disabled people and sexual minorities deserve no less protection from prejudice and bigotry. The latest social attitudes survey show that these attacks are still very high."
The new bill would bring Scotland into line with England and Wales where tougher sentences have been available for such offences since April 2003.
A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said they could not comment on the case.
CAN YOU CLAIM COMPENSATION?
YOU may be eligible to make a claim for money from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) if you can answer "Yes" to all of the questions in any of the following three groups:
Have you been physically or psychologically injured because of a violent crime?
Did the crime take place in the last two years? (NB the CICA may also consider instances of abuse beyond this time scale)
Has your parent, child, husband, wife or partner died as a result of a violent crime?
Did he or she die within the last two years?
Do you have a close relationship with another person who has been the victim of a violent crime?
Were you present when the crime took place or involved immediately afterwards?
Did your involvement in the incident cause you a psychological injury?
Did the crime take place within the last two years?
However, there are a some exceptions that mean compensation cannot be paid. These include crimes that took place outside Scotland, England or Wales; and road traffic accidents, unless the vehicle was used deliberately to injure the victim.