Should the CICA's definition of a crime of violence be extended to include cybercrime?

Posted 05/03/24

Should the CICA's definition of a crime of violence be extended to include cybercrime?

Written by Grace Anderson


The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is operated by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), providing compensation to victims who have been physically or mentally injured as a result of a crime of violence. The CICA’s definition of a crime of violence refers to a broad range of criminal offences that involve the use or threat of force against a person. This definition has roots in conventional crime such as assault, sexual assault, robbery, and homicide.

Cybercrimes such as hacking, identity theft and online fraud often do not involve physical violence, which is the traditional focus of the CICA’s definition of a crime of violence. However, there are cybercrime which can cause, facilitate, or threaten violence. Such as cyber-stalking, image-based sexual offences, and online exploitation. Such crimes can have a significant impact upon victims and their families. However as they do not fall within the conventional scope of a crime of violence, it may be challenging for the victims to be eligible for compensation for any mental injuries they sustained as a result.

As the internet becomes more accessible, there is a risk that technology can be used to facilitate new types of crime and exploitation. Most notably, Generative AI is a branch of artificial intelligence that enables computers to autonomously create new and realistic data samples, such as images, text, or music, based on patterns learned from existing data. Currently, little is known about the full impact of AI due to its rapid evolution and complexity, however the potential for AI to be a tool to assist cyber-crime. For example, vulnerable groups, particularly women and girls, face amplified risks and unique challenges in combatting ‘deepfake’ image-based sexual abuse. In 2023, the Ministry of Justice have recognised the increased use of this form of sexual-abuse and have vowed to amend the current Online Safety Bill to reflect this. This is but one example of how the law is currently undergoing changes and proposals to modernize its statutes and regulations to effectively combat cybercrime of a violent nature.

It can be argued that the current framework in the CICA’s definition of a crime of violence needs updating to reflect the advent of cybercrime that is reshaping the way illegal activities unfold and are perpetrated. This would allow the opportunity for the victims of violent cyber-crime to be compensated through receiving a CICA award for the psychological damages sustained.

Whilst the CICA’s definition of a crime of violence currently remains unchanged, in the recent case of RN v CICA [2023] EWCA Civ 882, the Court of Appeal overturned the decisions of the Upper and First Tier Tribunals, to hold that a victim of sexual abuse that did not involve physical touching is a victim of a crime of violence under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The case concerned a victim who was groomed online by a male who pretended to be a 14-year-old girl. When the victim realised the identity of who he was talking to was fake, he became increasingly scared as the abuser knew where he lived. The abuser messaged the victim threats and stated that he could be hiding in a bush near his house to keep the abuse a secret.

As a result of this the victim was traumatised and suffered life changing mental injuries because of the abuse. In overturning the decision, the Court of Appeal held that a crime of violence the ‘requirement of fear of immediate violence is a fear of violence at some time not excluding the immediate future’. This judgement is significant to victims of modern forms of violent crime which are likely to cause psychiatric injury, but which do not necessarily involve or require the physical element of violence. This includes cybercrime of a violent nature which take place digitally and therefore, without the immediate proximity to a victim. 

For further information and advice regarding Criminal Injuries Compensation get in touch with our specialist team on 0800 138 6061.


Want to know more? Click here to learn how to claim for psychological injuries under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.

APIL, Lexcel, Personal Injury - The Law Society Accredited, APIL Brain Injury Specialist
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