Over the last 30 years, the courts have been given significant jurisdiction to make ancillary orders upon conviction for criminal offences. Courts may make a compensation order under the Criminal Justice Act 1993.
Subject to the provisions of the legislation upon the conviction of any person for an offence, the court in addition to dealing with him in any other way may unless it sees reason to the contrary, make a compensation order requiring him to pay compensation in respect of any personal injury or loss resulting from the offence (or other offences) to an injured party who has suffered loss or injury. This may be taken into consideration by the court in determining the sentence.
Compensation should not be ordered as an effective alternative to a fine and conviction. Otherwise, persons who could afford to pay compensation could avoid sanctions that could not be avoided by persons without the means.
The compensation is to be of the amount that the court considers appropriate. It is not to exceed the amount which would have been paid on foot of an order in a civil action in respect of the injury concerned. In the case of an order by the District Court, it is not to exceed the court’s jurisdiction in tort.
Loss incurred to property by way of damage, even property that is recovered may be the subject of a compensation order. It is presumed to have been caused by the offence while it is out of the possession of the owner.
Compensation is not to be payable for injury arising from a vehicle in a public place unless the offender was uninsured or had taken the vehicle from the owner and damaged it before recovery.
Compensation may be payable in instalments. Regard may be had to the means of the offender or in appropriate cases, his parents or guardian. The person may be required to provide details of his means and circumstances.
Payments may be made to the District Court clerk for transmission onwards. Family law maintenance of spouses and children, type provision is applicable.
A court may make a compensation order and a fine. If the defendant’s means are insufficient, the compensation order is to take precedence.
Variation and Appeal
The court may on the application of a person who has been convicted apply for the reduction of the compensation if there is a substantial change in circumstances and means and such that there is no longer means to pay the order, sums ordered. T
The District Court may on the application of the injured party apply for an increase in the level of compensation if there is an increase in the convicted person’s means.
The compensation order is suspended and may be overturned on appeal of the conviction.
The victim should not be involved in the question of the amount of punishment or compensation, which may not be in lieu of punishment. It is argued that the victim’s willingness should be an irrelevant consideration on basic principles.
The victim may be permitted to indicate a willingness to accept or refuse compensation. However, it is thereafter a matter for the court to determine the appropriate sentence, having regard to the multiple considerations which must be borne in mind including any payment of compensation offered or made.