“Compensation has been reduced for more than 400 sex abuse victims in Britain who later committed criminal offences, the BBC has learnt.” was the headline:-
Sanchia Berg of the BBC made a Freedom of Information Request to the CICA who could not produce all the results she wanted, because she spoke to me before the story was published. She asked if ACAL (Association of Child Abuse Lawyers) had any statistics as to how many abuse cases are turned down because the applicant has committed criminal offences. Because in the past, we have had experience of a biased approach, we usually opt for the alternative civil system, and thus only have anecdotal opinions.
Sanchia gives the example of “Jane” who was refused compensation for sexual abuse after exploitation by a gang because of the crimes she committed whilst attached to the gang, and under their influence.
The psychology of the typical victim is:-
- Sexual abuse as a teenager
- Once he/she realises that the abuse by the adult was wrong, they experience PTSD in the form of flashbacks and nightmares.
- So distressing are the effects that they often take to drink and drunks which acts as emotional anesthetic.
- Crime often results and can continue for many years, particularly if they are addicted to heroin.
- If the offence is serious, counselling in prison can result in the realisation that their ruined life has been caused/contributed to by the abuse.
- If the government employs the abuser, and the victim is in care then there must be a conflict of interest in its role as the authority responsible for both the abuse and the compensation scheme?
- If the victim is told to remain silent by the abuser to cover up the crime, and enable him/her to carry on abusing others, the child often maintains the secrecy for many years.
- To not believe the victim when he applies for compensation arguably justifies the grooming and threats of the abuser.
- The victim is being punished twice, and is manipulated by circumstances out of his control.
- The effect of a rejection by the government is to enhance the harm already caused. The victim often descends further into depression.
In response to the story, the government response is “Under the scheme, an applicant may be refused or awarded a reduced payment if they have an unspent conviction. This reflects the fact they may have caused distress, loss or injury to another person and cost the taxpayer money through a police investigation or court proceeding.” Hardly a sympathetic approach?
The CICA Scheme
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, funded by taxpayers, pays money to the victims of crime if they satisfy stringent guidelines laid down by government.
Fixed amounts laid down in a tariff scheme are awarded if the application is successful.
Executive Officers not lawyers administer the scheme.
Awards can be refused if
- The crime is not reported to the police
- The applicant has unspent criminal convictions
- The applicant’s character “makes it inappropriate to make an award or a full award”
The scheme was set up in 1964, and many of the rules are creatures of history. For many years child abuse was not a common crime, whereas now it is. The attitude of the CICA is generally unsympathetic and discretion is often interpreted strictly, should a case not fall within straightforward lines, such as an abuse case where there is no conviction because the abuser is dead, and no criminal conviction.
At the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, of which I am the President, we have, for at least the last 15 years complained about the way in which the CICA deal with applications for compensation under the scheme, to such an extent that we often advise clients not to pursue a claim when there is the better alternative of the Civil Courts.
Under the CICA scheme, there is no provision for legal costs which have to come out of the award. Indeed before the CICA will pay any money to a lawyer, the client has to sign a form of authority. The whole scheme is very much set up to encourage applicants not to use lawyers, to such an extent that their website says “You do not need a paid representative such as a solicitor or claims management company to apply for compensation”
Not using a solicitor is all very well in straight forward applications. Abuse cases where the victim is badly damaged, vulnerable, and the cases are not straight forward require specialist help, particularly where the abuse happened many years ago and is out of time (2 years from the date of the offence or the date of reporting to the police)
The cynic in me, and APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers), argue that the CICA do not want lawyers involved because they fight for more money and contest applications more rigorously, and thus cost the CICA money.
If you think we can help you, then do not hesitate to contact us.