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Criminal Injuries Compensation for victims of child abuse

Published Thursday, May 16, 2019

This briefing explains the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme's treatment of victims of child abuse and current areas of reform. It covers England, Scotland and Wales.

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What is the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme?

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) is a State scheme to compensate people who have been physically or mentally injured because they were the blameless victim of a violent crime. The Scheme covers England, Scotland and Wales. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) administers it. There have been four different schemes since criminal injuries compensation was put on a statutory footing in 1995. Which scheme applies depends on the date the CICA receives the application. This can be important in cases of historic abuse, where claims and appeals can take years to resolve.

Why is there a controversy about victims of child abuse?

The CICS has a range of specific awards for injuries related to sexual abuse and can also make awards for mental injuries. There are several aspects of the Scheme, outlined below, that can affect victims of historic child abuse.

The “same roof rule”

Under this rule, victims cannot get compensation if they were injured before 1 October 1979 by someone living under the same roof as themselves. The rule was changed in 1979, but the change was not made retrospective. Successive governments have decided not to change this “same roof rule” retrospectively, for cost and other reasons. The current Government said it will abolish the pre-1979 effect of the rule, following a 2018 Court of Appeal judgment, which held that the rule could lead to discrimination. This will require secondary legislation which is, at the time of writing, awaited.

The “two-year rule”

Generally, applications must be made “as soon as reasonably practicable” after the event and in any case within two years of the incident, although this can be extended. The 2012 scheme makes specific provision for victims of child abuse in relation to this rule, whereas the 2008 Scheme did not. Some claimants have successfully challenged refusals to extend the time limit. Some argue that the rule itself does not adequately reflect the reasons why victims of child sexual abuse do not report it promptly.

Reducing/withholding awards due to victims’ criminality

Criminal injuries compensation awards can be reduced or withheld because applicants have unspent convictions; campaigners argue that some child victims of grooming commit offences because they are pressured by the perpetrators.

“Consent” to sexual activity

Some organisations reported in July 2017 that the CICA was denying compensation to victims who had been sexually abused as children because they had “consented” to the sexual activity. The Government responded with revised (but unpublished) guidance in October 2017. Campaigners have welcomed the guidance but say that more far-reaching reform of the CICS is necessary.

Reform of the CICS

In September 2018 the Government said it would review the CICS examining, in particular, whether it could better serve victims of child abuse. Amending the CICS will require secondary legislation, which the Government has said it will introduce as soon as parliamentary time allows.



 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7498

Author: Douglas Pyper

Topics: Crime, Criminal law

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