Under the New Tariff Scheme victims of abuse have found it more difficult to make an effective claim because of the rules concerning previous convictions. When an applicant is rejected by the CICA because of his character/convictions, he usually feels he is the victim of the same sort of abuse that he suffered whilst at the children’s home, and becomes angry once again. The CICA claim that they are bound by their guidelines. We co-ordinated a chapter of appeals at the end of January 1999 which resulted in some general written guidelines as to how the CICA handle these types of cases. Cynically, one might argue that the guidelines followed several applications for Judicial Review, which are presently going through the Courts.
The Convictions Rule
Under Paragraphs 13(d) & (e) of the New Tariff Scheme the CICA are obliged to take into account
the criminal convictions and previous history of the applicant. Under Para 8.15 of the guidelines they have discretion to waive any previous convictions and there is a comprehensive points system for them to take into account. The burden is upon the applicant to show why the previous convictions should be ignored.
The CICA in their guidelines say that they will look at the previous convictions of the applicant carefully and make a decision upon which of the convictions they can ignore because of links with the original crime. It is up to the applicant to demonstrate what the links are. For example the victim is likely to resent authority. It would be typical to see convictions for assault on Police, assaults on Paedophiles, and in some cases sexual offences. Unless the applicant argues for the links in the application form it is likely that the CICA will reduce or refuse the application because of the convictions, assuming of course that the applicant has a long criminal history. The Board are unlikely, even on Appeal, to allow applications from victims who have recently offended, particularly where they are doing a long prison sentence for a serious crime. It has been argued, unsuccessfully, that all the criminal convictions are to be ignored. A typical scenario is as follows:-
i). The victim leaves care in a psychological mess, takes to drink and drugs and then commits acquisitive crimes to foster his habit.
ii). The victim assaults Police Officers whilst being arrested and others whilst in drink because he is angry about the abuse he has suffered.
iii). The victim is unable to form a relationship with either his own or the opposite sex because of his abusive experiences. He therefore does not settle down at the age of 21 and halt his criminal career. It therefore carries on.
iv). Having entered the criminal environment he continues to commit crime because it becomes part of his character and way of life.
v). Because of the psychological damage prison becomes a means of escape from normal life where he feels more secure than in the outside world because of the routine and discipline.
vi). The applicant cannot hold down a job because he resents authority, and trusts no-one, not even his peers at work. He wants to be alone.
Unfortunately the CICA will only take into account those crimes which can be shown to be directly connected with the abuse. The writer together with at least one MP, many pressure groups, and others feel very strongly that victims of sexual abuse should be given special treatment by the CICA. The rule is surely designed to prevent an applicant for compensation gaining rewards when the incident is connected with his criminal way of life. For example a Drug Baron should not be entitled to make a claim if he is assaulted in the course of a transaction. How can this rule be applied to historical applications where the incident happened before the criminal career started and where the life of crime is probably an effect of the abuse?
Support your application for CICA with a Psychological Report.
Ensure that the Psychologist deals with links between criminal convictions and the abuse.
Be prepared to apply for a Review when the initial application is turned down.
Quote the guidelines published by the CICA on the way in which they deal with these types of applications in support.
Be aware that the awards for sexual abuse are pitifully low (less than £5000 in many cases) under the New Tariff Scheme. An Appeal can become uneconomic.
Consider Judicial Review and feed back any results to ACAL.
If your client feels angry and let down by the result complain to an MP. Perhaps then some pressure can be put on Parliament to change the rules.