At the end of January 2008 the House of Lords handed down judgment in a number of important cases, which have revolutionised the law of child abuse compensation.
The law has tipped in favour of survivors. It is now much easier for them to fight cases. This is great news. The following changes have been made:-
- The case against Iowarth Hoare, the lottery winning millionaire rapist, has established the principle that time does not automatically run out at the age of 24 for the victims of assault and rape, as at present.
- It is a lot easier for survivors of rape/assault to bring civil claims for compensation against their abuser many years after the event.
- It is a lot easier for the survivors of abuse by sex offenders in employment to claim compensation. At the moment one has to prove failings in the systems of management and supervision, in order to lay blame upon the employer.
- Under the new law all a survivor has to show is that the abuse took place. The employer, in the majority of cases, will then become automatically to blame for what took place.
- The law on time limits (the law which governs whether one can bring a case many years after the event) has changed to a fairer system for survivors of abuse, which will now take into account the fact that survivors cannot bring themselves to do anything about the abuse from their past, until many years after the event, for perfectly understandable reasons.
- In the future the law will not ignore what the survivor thinks and feels personally, rather than what “a reasonable survivor of child abuse in the position of the Claimant” would have thought and done. Every survivor thinks and feels differently.
- The law has introduced a time limit test, which is much wider, so as to take into account more sympathetically the individual circumstances of the survivor. The court has a wide discretion to do what is fair and just in each case rather than the narrow system we had previously.
How will the changes affect cases?
Previously our case had to be based on the failures of management. Cases will still be stronger if large group of Claimants acts together, but we will be more interested in proving the abuse happened by getting supportive testimony.
It is now possible to take on cases where there is a single incident of abuse and not as much corroboration.
Presently, cases where the survivor has disclosed his/her abuse to individuals such as priests/therapists/ or family members over the years, were unlikely to get round the time bar problem.
Under the new law the court has such a wide discretion that any reasonable argument of delay personal to the survivor might sway the court’s mind. Cases are less likely to fail because they are out of time.
Cases involving allegations that Social services failed to remove a child from an abusive environment will be unaffected.
The full judgment is accessible on the BAILLII website under the title A v Hoare (2008) The site reference is http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/2008/6.html
© Peter Garsden, Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors.