The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has announced new guidelines on compensation for abuse victims. A key topic in these guidelines is the approach to be taken to the issue of consent.
Last July five charities – Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Liberty, Rape Crisis and the National Working Group wrote to the justice secretary David Lidington stating that the CICA was refusing applications from victims as young as 12, claiming they were ‘consenting’ to abuse, even though the perpetrators of the abuse had been convicted.
The CICA deals with ‘compensation claims from people who have been physically or mentally injured because they were the blameless victim of a violent crime in England, Scotland or Wales’.
It has been reported that there are hundreds of victims who have been refused compensation on the basis of arguments about consent, including a Rotherham child sexual abuse victim.
Following the reports, the CICA carried out an internal review on applications for compensation for sexual abuse victims. The findings of the review have prompted the CICA to publish new guidelines stating “even if it appears that the minor expressed consent to the acts in question, it cannot be assumed that this was given because the child wanted to engage in sexual activity as this may actually be a symptom of coercive control. The surrounding circumstances always require to be investigated as these may indicate that the situation was abusive and the consent was not true consent”.
The CICA has confirmed it has new safeguards in place and that all ‘complex’ claims for compensation from victims of sexual abuse will be referred to CICA lawyers. It also suggests that it is improving training for its staff in this area.
Written by Nicola Aspinwall, solicitor at BLM