What is Criminal Injuries Compensation?
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a state scheme to compensate people who have been physically or mentally injured because they were the “blameless” victim of a violent crime. The Scheme covers England, Scotland and Wales. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) administers it. There have been four different schemes since Criminal Injuries Compensation was put on a statutory footing in 1995. Which scheme applies depends on the date CICA received the application’ This can be important in cases of historic abuse, where claims and appeals can take years to resolve.
Why is there a controversy about victims of child abuse?
The scheme has a range of specific awards for injuries related to sexual abuse, and can also make awards for mental injuries.
There are several issues concerning the scheme which can affect victims of historic child abuse:
The “Same Roof Rule”
Under this rule, victims cannot get compensation if they were injured before 1 October 1979 by someone living under the same roof as themselves. The rule was changed in 1979, but the change was not made retrospective. Successive governments have decided not to change this “same roof rule” retrospectively, for cost and other reasons.
The “two year rule”
Generally, applications have to be made “as soon as reasonably practicable” after the event and in any case within two years of the incident, although this can be extended in some circumstances. The 2012 scheme makes specific provision for victims of child abuse in relation to this rule, whereas the 2008 Scheme did not. Some claimants have successfully challenged refusals to extend the time limit at Judicial Review. Some argue that the rule itself does not adequately reflect the reasons why victims of child sexual abuse do not report it promptly.
Reducing or withholding awards because of victims’ criminal convictions
Criminal injuries compensation awards can be reduced or withheld because an applicant has unspent convictions; campaigners argue that some child victims of grooming commit offences because they are pressured by the perpetrators.
“Consent” to sexual activity
In addition, some organisations reported in July 2017 that CICA was denying compensation to victims who had been sexually abused as children because they had “consented” to the sexual activity. The Government responded with revised (but unpublished) guidance in October 2017. Campaigners have welcomed the guidance, but say that more far-reaching reform of Criminal Injuries Compensation is necessary.