Howard faces struggle over CICS

MICHAEL Howard will have difficulty pushing through legislation to reinstate the tariff-based criminal injuries compensation scheme declared unlawful by the Lords, the Law Society predicts.

The ruling against the Home Secretary's controversial scheme has been applauded by the Law Society and hailed as a major victory for the victims of crime by the lawyers who took him to court.

The society's parliamentary lobbyist, Judy Foy, says she doubts Howard will be able to convince Tory MPs of the merits of the scheme he has now promised to legislate for “as quickly as possible”.

She points to the society-sponsored amendment to the then Criminal Justice Bill to keep the old compensation system which she says attracted significant back-bench interest when the Government's majority was less precarious.

Robin Thompson & Partners acted for the trade unions which challenged Howard. Partner Colin Ettinger describes last week's decision as one of major constitutional importance.

“We've been involved in some high profile cases in our time but I can't think of one when we've overturned a government decision.

“The arguments were quite finely balanced, we don't have a written constitution, and this particular point had never been raised before.”

But Howard says the judgement relates to the method of introducing the scheme and not the scheme itself.

The unions argued the Home Secretary had failed to give statutory effect to the more generous compensation scheme taking loss of earnings into account which was approved by Parliament in the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.

They cite the example of a 28-year-old prison officer forced into retirement after being beaten unconscious by 20 prisoners and who received u246,127 compensation under the old scheme, but would have been handed out u25,000 under the tariff system.

The Home Office says it will reassess the compensation of victims who have lodged claims since the tariff came into force.