See government press release here. Congratulations everyone who campaigned for this change – what a wonderful if very belated victory for grassroots claimants /campaigners! It seems that the government has decided not to make people wait for the end of their Review of the Compensation Scheme after all. That’s good as the uncertainty has been terribly traumatic.
Victims of sexual violence win Appeal Court victory
A landmark Appeal Court ruling on 24 July 2018 has reversed decades of injustice, upholding for the first time a claimant’s right to compensation even though she lived under the same roof as her attacker at the time.
The Appeal Court decided that the woman, identified as JT, who suffered years of serious sexual abuse by her stepfather when she a child, was entitled to compensation. The woman had been denied the right to damages because she shared a home with him at the time. Another victim of her stepfather who didn’t live with him did previously received compensation.
JT’s stepfather repeatedly abused her between the ages of four and 17. He was convicted in 2012 of eight offences, including rape and sexual assault, and imprisoned for 14 years.
Until now the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), which pays damages to victims of violent crime, has refused victims like her any payout because of the unfair same roof rule which denied compensation to victims who lived in the same home as their attacker before 1979 Hundreds of victims – mostly raped by fathers and husbands – will now be able to get redress.
The judges said the so-called “same-roof” rule, is “incompatible” with human rights laws.
Lord Justice Leggatt, who heard the appeal with Sir Terence Etherton and Lady Justice Sharp, said the rule was “arbitrary and unfair”. He said:
“A scheme under which compensation is awarded to [the other victim] but denied to JT is obviously unfair.
“It is all the more unfair when the reason for the difference in treatment – that JT was living as a member of the same family as her abuser, whereas [the other victim] was not – is something over which JT had no control and is a feature of her situation which most people would surely regard as making her predicament and suffering even worse.”
The reason given for the rule at the time was that abusers should not benefit from compensation paid to the victims they lived with, particularly in domestic violence. After years of criticism and campaigns, including by Women Against Rape, the law was altered in 1979 so that any future victims of such domestic crimes could claim compensation; but the change was not applied retrospectively.
Other reforms were made in 2012 following the government’s stated intention to save £50million from the Scheme. The same-roof rule was maintained because scrapping could increase the number of claims.
Alissa Moore, who waived her anonymity, was refused compensation while her sister, whose abuse continued after 1979, made a successful claim, and has campaigned together with WAR said today:
“I’m overwhelmed by this case. But it’s not just this rule – many people are turned down under other rules, like those with unspent convictions. The whole rule book needs rewriting. Nobody should be made to feel worthless as you do when you get a CICA refusal letter. We already were made to feel worthless our whole lives.”
Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape hailed this case as:
“A breakthrough for all those who have suffered horrific sexual abuse before 1979 and had been denied official acknowledgement and damages to help them recover. Most of them are victims of rape by fathers or older brothers who were unable to escape or report it until years later. Even though many had taken the enormous step to get their attacker investigated and convicted, the government continues to deny them compensation. We are really pleased the campaigning has paid off.”
WAR, backed by over 40 organisations, lawyers and other professionals, calls on the government to now tackle all the other injustices by CICA suffered by people who have been raped or abused, whether as children or as adults. (see http://againstrape.net/open-letter-for-compensation-to-secretary-of-justice)
JT’s case was brought in England and Wales. There are other challenges to the rule in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse recommended in its interim report in April that the rule be scrapped.
|Brigitte’s pro-bono legal team at Kingsley Napley have just announced that they will cover the full cost of her daughters air fares!
Brigitte is overwhelmed by the kindness and the generosity, not only of her solicitors, but of everyone who has been moved to make immediate donations. A further £172 has been received so far. These and any further donations will be used to cover additional/inevitable costs incurred by moving from the DRC and settling here in London.
Thank you all for your care and support for Brigitte and her children. We will be back in touch once they are with us!
Black Women’s Rape Action Project.
Brigitte fled the Democratic Republic of Congo having been detained and tortured in prison by the authorities for her own and her family’s involvement in the opposition movement. Once in the UK she spent seven years fighting for the right to stay whilst doing what she could to find her five children who were lost to her.
In 2013, with BWRAP’s help, Brigitte won indefinite leave to remain but was denied the right to automatic family reunion. Later that year, miraculously, she found two of her daughters alive in DRC, but living in terrible conditions. She wanted to bring them to Britain, but couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer. BWRAP was able to secure pro bono representation from Katie Newbury at Kingsley Napley and Rebecca Chapman at 2 Garden Court. Applications for family reunion were made in May 2016, but rejected three months later. None of the evidence so painstakingly gathered was addressed. Statements from her daughters detailing their vulnerability to destitution, the history of the abuse they had suffered after Brigitte fled, and the traumatic impact that ongoing separation had on them, were dismissed and ignored.
Brigitte appealed. BWRAP and Women Against Rape gave witness testimony at her hearing and Brigitte was supported by 19 women from AAWG all crammed into a tiny court. Unlike some judges who dislike public scrutiny, Judge Lingam thanked everyone for attending.
Finally in March 2018, Judge Lingham granted Brigitte the right to family reunion in Britain – a monumental victory. It could never have happened without a mother who refused to give up, a dedicated team of women campaigners and a legal team all ready to put their expertise and their hearts into the struggle together. Brigitte says:
“I’ve watched other mothers like me live for the moment they’re precious children come back. Words cannot express what we feel, but we know that no mother or child anywhere in the world should have to suffer so much to live together.”
To donate, please mark your donation: “Brigitte’s Appeal”
Bank transfer: HSBC Account name: Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Account No: 61635581 Sort Code: 40-04-04
Or via PayPal: Black Women’s Rape Action Project.
More information: Tel 020 7482 2496, email firstname.lastname@example.org