Over 80,000 violent crime victims are awaiting compensation payments because the public body responsible is inefficient, a report finds.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) comes under attack for a steady decline in the quality of its work in paying statutory financial compensation to victims of violent crime the last ten years.
In 2006/07 it took 42 per cent longer to deal with cases than in 1998/99, while the cost of dealing with each claim rose by 54 per cent over the same period, a National Audit Office (NAO) report finds.
These negative developments come despite the overall number of cases dropping by 23 per cent, interpreted as evidence of better policing against violent crime.
The report condemns the CICA's processes as "bureaucratic and repetitive" and NAO head Sir John Bourn warned such delays could make it more difficult for victims to recover from a traumatic experience.
"The CICA's performance has got worse since I last reported on it in 2000," he said.
"It is taking longer to deal with cases, it has not reduced the number of ineligible applications and has frequently missed its targets over the years.
"We look to CICA to make swift improvements in the service it provides to victims."
CICA chief executive Carole Oatway said many of the failings identified in the NAO report had been accepted in 2006. Efforts were underway to resolve the problems, she added.
"We are confident that by working closely with our partners in the criminal justice system, we will ensure that the people who come to us receive a faster, fairer service," Ms Oatway commented.
"We know that for many innocent victims of violent crime, a compensation payment from CICA is one of the key things they receive to show that society recognises what they have suffered."
The NAO report noted that victims of the 2005 London bombings, which resulted in 52 people dead and over 770 wounded, had not been affected by CICA's bad practices. A specialist team had dealt with claims related to the incident separate to ongoing processing procedures.