Controversial guidelines that prevented hundreds of child victims of sexual exploitation from receiving compensation on the grounds that they consented have been altered following uproar from campaigners.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) was widely criticised by a coalition of charities, including Barnardo’s and Victim Support, after figures revealed that more than 700 youngsters had been refused pay-outs because they were said to have complied with their abuse.
However, the new guidelines include clear instructions for assessors to check for possible indicators of grooming and child sexual exploitation.
The new guidance for CICA staff states: “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.
“You should be mindful that an applicant may not realise they have been abused at the time of the incident due to the coercive effects of sexual grooming or child sexual exploitation. Victims may be tricked into thinking that they are in a loving, consensual relationship when the reality is that they are being subjected to the abuser’s coercive control.”
CICA’s chief executive Carole Oatway said the nature of grooming made signs of abuse particularly challenging to detect, adding: “We are determined to make sure every victim gets the compensation to which they are entitled.
“That’s why we have listened to experts, including children charities, and are grateful for their expertise in helping make sure our guidance is as robust as it can possibly be.”
Campaigners had written to the justice secretary David Liddington last July warning that sexually abused children as young as 12 were being denied payments even if their attackers had been jailed.
The Ministry of Justice previously estimated that around 30 cases a year were refused compensation on consent grounds.
How can our Personal Injury lawyers help?
CICA’s change in policy is long overdue but at least compassion and common sense have at last prevailed.
Victims of child sex abuse are left with lifelong scars that may never fully heal. While compensation isn’t a silver bullet, it can provide a form of closure and recognition of what has happened.
If you have suffered abuse, Gotelee Solicitors’ specialist team of Suffolk lawyers can provide sensitive care and expert guidance if you would like to bring civil claims.
The Suffolk law firm, which has offices in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Melton, Hadleigh and Woodbridge, is partnered with Ipswich charity Survivors in Transition (SiT) to help guide victims through the process. SiT aims to empower survivors to take control of their lives and cope better with the daily effects the abuse has left them with.
Gotelee is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, which help to bring together a team of experts, including doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists and specialist barristers.
To find out how we can help you, contact us on 01473 298125.