Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority accused of gay prejudice

PinkNews Staff Writer May 13, 2008
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The body which awards compensation to victims of violent crime rejected a claim from a gay man because of his sexuality, it has been claimed.

Kenneth Neil, from Glasgow, was the victim of a vicious and unprovoked homophobic attack in his home in 2004.

The 38-year-old, who said he thought he was going to die during his ordeal, has decided to speak out after the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) rejected his claim.

In August 2004, while living in Ayr, he was returning from a night out when he stopped to assist a disabled man.

Another man offered his assistance.

“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 told The Scotsman.

“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.”

While full of praise for the response and attitude of the police, Mr Neil was shocked when CICA rejected his claim for compensation.

“They wrote that ‘despite having walked home with the suspect and allowed him into your house’ I was unable to identify my attacker,” he told the paper.

“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.”

In January a report commissioned by Lothian and Borders Police found that 15% of gay men in Edinburgh have been attacked in the last year.

One in four of the 150 men questioned said they had been the victim of homophobic violence in the last five years.

7% of lesbians questioned said they had been assaulted physically or sexually in the previous 12 months.

MSPs, police chiefs, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and gay rights activists welcomed the announcement earlier this year that the government in Scotland will support an extension of the country’s hate crimes legislation to protect LGBT people and the disabled.

The Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill was proposed by Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Green MSP.

Commenting on Mr Neil’s treatment by CICA, Mr Harvie told The Scotsman:

“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.”

CICA said in a statement: “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.”

Mr Neil is not satisfied and has pledged to fight CICA all the way to the House of Lords.

His bravery in speaking publicly about his experiences has drawn attention to the unreported violence many LGBT people suffer.

“Gay people keep quiet about violence because we don’t want family and workmates to know about our private lives,” he told The Scotsman.

“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.”

For more information on CICA visit their website.

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