According to law, the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse is 16. Despite this, 700 cases of child sex abuse brought to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) have been denied compensation as they are said to have ‘given consent’ to the sexual activities.
What Is The CICA?
The CICA was set up in 1964. It is UK Government run and provides compensation for injuries caused to survivors of violent crime in England, Scotland and Wales. A complex system is used to calculate how much compensation is paid.
It has been revealed that part of this complex system means that despite the criminal law stating that children under the age of 16 cannot consent to activity of a sexual nature, precedent established through previous cases brought before the CICA and current guidelines means that children as young as 12 have been denied compensation because they ‘consented’.
What Is The Law Regarding Consent?
In 1274, the law of consent in England was set at 12. This was raised to 13 in 1875 and again in 1885 to 16. The Sexual Offences Act (2003) states that it is an offence to engage in sexual relations with anyone under the age of 16.
There are some circumstances where sex with someone under this age would result in a more lenient conviction. If the adult involved believed the child was over the age of 16, this would be taken into account when sentencing. However, if the child was under the age of 13, there is no argument for age confusion as a child under the age of 13 cannot consent in any way.
Age gap is also taken into account. This is to prevent the prosecution of two teenagers under the age of 16 who both mutually agreed to engage in sexual activity and are of a similar age. However, as the age gap increases, law breaking is dealt with more severely as age gaps can cause a power imbalance.
The above is criminal law and therefore relates to anyone facing a conviction. The guidelines provided by the CICA are different and pose contentious issues regarding consent.
What Are The CICA Guidelines?
Whilst criminal law will see a perpetrator behind bars for abusing children, this does not always mean that the CICA will provide compensation to the survivor.
Various charities, including Barnardos, Victim Support and Liberty have written to the Justice Secretary, David Lidington, demanding that the Government revise the guidelines provided by the CICA to avoid innocent survivors of abuse being denied compensation for reasons that criminal law would not recognise.
Since 2012, around 700 child abuse survivors have been denied compensation, as guidelines provided suggest that their compliance with perpetrators can be seen as consent. The guidelines state that when a survivor is “not a direct victim of a crime of violence,” they are not eligible to claim for compensation for Personal Injury.
What Other Factors Can Impact Compensation?
Consent hasn’t been the only hurdle child abuse survivors have been faced with. The guidelines also stipulate that the CICA “may refuse or reduce a payment if you have a criminal record, even though you may have been blameless in the incident which resulted in your injury.”
The CICA can refuse to pay anything if the survivor has unspent criminal convictions. If a crime has resulted in imprisonment the CICA, will refuse to pay any money for compensation.
A survivor’s character will also be taken into account when deciding on compensation reduction or refusal.
Character evidence taken into account may include:
- Involvement or association in illegal drugs or crime
- Tax evasion or benefit fraud
- Antisocial behaviour orders
- Cautions or reprimands
The coalition of charities is calling for the government to change the rules so that no child who has been groomed into sexual abuse is denied compensation. The process of grooming involves the manipulation and complete control of a child who either doesn’t understand what is going on, or does and is too afraid to speak out. If grooming is involved, the argument for consent is put into disrepute as consent is classed as, “if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”
Within this definition, the following also needs to be considered:
- Free choice (i.e. that they were not constrained in any way)
“For the CICA to depart from the criminal law, and send a message to victims that abuse could have been their fault is not only insulting, but also penalises the young and vulnerable.”
“One of the reasons abuse victims struggle greatly with coming forward with evidence of abuse is the fear that they won’t be believed. The CICA treatment of abuse survivors is destructive and consolidates the view that abuse survivors indeed won’t be believed.”
“In criminal law, it is impossible to consent to abuse when under a certain age, when the offender is being prosecuted, and yet the CICA have a different set of rules and guidelines.”