Government ‘denying sexually abused children compensation’

The NWG, along with four other charities, has written to the justice secretary, David Lidington, demanding he reviews Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) guidelines in relation to victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and other forms of abuse.

The NWG and its partners are aware of cases where sexually abused children as young as 12 are being denied compensation by a government agency on the grounds that they gave consent.

The CICA has refused payments to almost 700 child victims even if their attackers have been jailed, freedom of information requests have revealed.

It is illegal to have sexual activity with anyone under 16 but CICA does not automatically make payments to all victims. In some cases individuals have been told they consented to the abuse.

We are calling for the rules to be changed so that “no child groomed and manipulated into sexual abuse is denied compensation because they complied with their abuse through fear, lack of understanding, or being brainwashed into believing their abuser loved them and developing feelings for them”.

In one example, a gang of older men were jailed for 30 years after being convicted of raping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. The victim was denied compensation by CICA on the grounds that “she had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts”.

She was devastated and left with the feeling that she was somehow responsible for the abuse she had suffered. A YouGov poll commissioned by our partners showed two-thirds of people believe the rules should be amended so that a child cannot be found to have “consented” to activities involved in their sexual exploitation.

Other victims of CSE have been denied compensation due to criminal convictions they received as a result of the grooming process they were subjected to and the horrific abuse they later went onto suffer.

As well as writing to the justice secretary the NWG is looking to compile further evidence of the CICA’s failings in relation to CSE victims. If members have experiences of victims being denied compensation for any of the reasons mentioned above and have permission to share them anonymously please get in touch.

Below is the letter:

The Rt Hon David Lidington MP

Secretary of State for Justice

102 Petty France

London

SW1H 9AJ

17 July 2017

Dear Secretary of State

We are writing to bring to your attention the significant concerns we have with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and to request that you review the Scheme as a matter of urgency.

As you know, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) makes a vital contribution in the recovery of victims of violent crime. It is the mechanism through which the Ministry of Justice fulfils its statutory duty to compensate blameless victims of violent crime. However, through our work with victims of crime and vulnerable children and young people, we are clear that the current system is not working for child victims of crime, particularly those who have been victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

As it is currently drafted, the Scheme compensates only those victims who did not ‘in fact’ consent to the crime against them. This has been interpreted to mean that even the very youngest of children who have been victims of sexual abuse can be denied compensation if there is any evidence to suggest they complied with their abuse; even if their purported compliance was through fear, coercive control or lack of understanding. This is not only inconsistent with the law which states that where a person is under the age of 16 sexual activity is automatically criminal, unless the victim is over 13 and the defendant reasonably believed he or she was over 16; but also goes against the Government’s otherwise strong stance and firm action against child sexual exploitation often through force or for survival purposes.

We have seen numerous cases in which compensation has been denied to child victims on the basis of apparent ‘consent’. These include the most shocking of cases where victims of child sexual exploitation who have been subjected to prolonged acts of abuse were deemed by those administering the Scheme to have consented ‘in fact’ to the acts; even where there is a conviction against the perpetrator for a violent crime. The message this sends to vulnerable victims and the impact this has on their recovery can be extremely damaging. It is unacceptable from a state-funded agency. The definition of consent must be clarified so that no child victim of abuse or sexual exploitation is denied compensation on the grounds that they complied with their abuse.

Other flaws in the CICS scheme which prevent blameless victims of violent crime being compensated for the crime they have suffered include the rule stating that victims who have unspent criminal convictions should have their awards reduced or withheld; and the ‘same roof rule’ which prevents any victim who was living with their attacker as a member of the same family at the time of an assault, from claiming compensation if the offence took place before 1 October 1979. Over the past five years 159 victims aged sixteen or under have had an award for a sexual offence refused due to having unspent criminal convictions, many of these offences would have been committed as part of the child’s exploitation. Over the past ten years, 1,484 victims have had their claims rejected due to the ‘same roof rule.’ These victims are those who have suffered the most serious and appalling of crimes, including child abuse. Many have endured years of violence in their own homes, yet are denied compensation because the abuse took place before an arbitrary cut-off date. The ‘1979 same roof rule’ should be abolished and the ‘unspent convictions’ rule must be made more proportional to ensure that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

(CICS) fulfils its aim of compensating blameless victims of violent crime in Great Britain.

These flaws in the CICS mean that the statutory duty, placed on you as Secretary of State

Justice, to compensate blameless victims of violent crime is currently not being fulfilled. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is in urgent need of updating and we are calling on you to order a review of the Scheme to ensure that it is fit for purpose and that all victims receive the redress they deserve. We are planning to raise awareness of these issues and would also welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these concerns and discuss the possible ways that they can be addressed. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Yours sincerely

Sheila Taylor MBE, Chief Executive, NWG

Diana Fawcett, Operations Director, Victim Support

Gill Holmes, Director of Policy and Communications, Barnardo’s

Dawn Thomas and Dianne Whitfield Co-Chairs, Rape Crisis England and Wales

Liberty