The following statement was released by OBA MP Scott Pearman, Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs…

Bermuda has a Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.  The Scheme exists as a safety net, to potentially compensate victims who suffer injury or death in certain circumstances.  Typically, compensation may be available to victims where their injury or fatality is directly attributable to a criminal act or to an attempt to prevent a criminal offence.

The Scheme is administered by a Board which is appointed on the recommendation of the relevant Government Minister.  Currently this is the Minister of Legal Affairs.

Last week, the way in which this Board manages claims by victims of crime was strongly criticised by a panel of three Judges on Bermuda’s Court of Appeal.

The Appeal Court found that a group of deserving claimants had been denied their legitimate claims for compensation.  The Court found this occurred because the Board had failed to make clear that claims needed to be brought within a specific time period.  The Court also found that the Board misinformed these victims as to when that time period was to begin.

It is understandable why the law requires legal claims to be brought within a reasonable period of time.  Yet it is vital that the public can easily understand what deadlines apply and when.  And where victims of crime who are seeking compensation are misinformed by a Government Board, the system has clearly failed them.

The Court of Appeal has strongly recommended to the Minister of Legal Affairs, Kathy Lynn Simmons, that an exceptional ex gratia payment should be made to these specific victims.  The OBA very much agrees with the Court’s recommendation.  There is maxim that justice must not only be done – justice must also be seen to be done.  This obvious injustice should be corrected as Bermuda’s Appeal Court recommends.

And the OBA stands ready to assist the current PLP Government to reform the existing Compensation Scheme to best ensure injustice does not happen again.  Specifically, the Board’s existing discretion to extend the deadline for claims should be adjusted, so that it’s powers align with time limits for all other personal injury claims in Bermuda.  It does not make sense that an injury or death caused by a criminal should have a shorter deadline than one caused inadvertently.