Open Letter for compensation to Secretary of Justice

Dear friends

Please add your signature to the open letter below, which is pressing for urgent changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for victims of sexual violence.

We have been campaigning together with a national network of survivors of a wide variety of sexual violence, as children and as adults, and we have put together this open letter on what we have found to be the main obstacles to compensation. In the context of #MeToo and Time’s Up movements we can win. More materials and media coverage at: http://againstrape.net/category/campaigns/compensation

We particularly urge survivors’ organisations, ISVAs, law firms, other professionals and any other groups to sign. Or you can sign as an individual. Please ask groups you know to sign.

If your organization or law firm helps or supports survivors to claim or to appeal, we would really like to be in touch and to work with you. Please let us know, so that we can contact you.

Against rape and for compensation and justice,

Lisa Longstaff

——————————————————–

Rt Hon. David Gauke
Secretary of State for Justice

Dear David Gauke

We collectively represent the experience and demands of thousands of survivors of rape, domestic violence and sex crimes suffered as children or adults.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is discriminating against victims of sexual crimes – even in some cases where our attacker was sent to prison. Winning justice and compensation is official recognition and a crucial step to recovery. It is particularly important for those whose attacker evaded prosecution – the vast majority of rape and domestic violence survivors.

There are several ways in which the Scheme should be updated. We appeal to your government to urgently change the following rules and practices:

1.   The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) denies compensation to victims who delayed reporting to the police – Paragraph 23.
Rape can be so traumatic to the victim that they may be unable to speak about it for some years. Many also experience pressure from others to stay silent.

2.   Victims below 16, the legal age of consent, are denied compensation.
The legal definition of rape is not necessarily applied by the CICA in relation to child victims. Since 2012 over 700 girls were refused compensation because the CICA decided they had ‘consented to sex’ despite being below the age of consent, and even where their attacker had been prosecuted and convicted. How can the CICA be allowed to contradict the criminal law in this way? Embarrassing publicity recently forced the government to think again about definitions of rape of children. But they only told the CICA to take ‘grooming’ into account. Not all girls who were raped by adult men were first groomed and therefore the CICA can still say they consented.

3.   Living under thesame roofwith your attacker before October 1979 disqualifies you from receiving compensation – Paragraph 19.
Before 1979 the rule was that if your attacker lived in the same household as you, you were not entitled to compensation. It denies compensation to victims even those whose rapist was convicted. The excuse was that your attacker might benefit from your award. In 1979 that rule was abolished, but it was not made retrospective. Between 2008-2013, 502 victims of rape were denied an award under this discredited rule. A significant proportion of rapes are committed by family members, and are among the most injurious. Retrospective payments must be awarded to those who have been denied.

4.   Victims of rape who have criminal convictions are denied compensation – Paragraphs 25-27.
Since 2015, at least 385 victims of sexual violence had been refused because of a conviction.[1] Unspent convictions for non-violent and minor offences, including theft, drink-driving or an unpaid TV licence are routinely used to deny victims an award. The CICA claims that the state having once prosecuted us nullifies any claim we have for compensation as it was a drain on public resources. Instead, they should value the public service we performed of bringing a rapist or other violent criminal to justice, protecting everyone’s safety. To punish us twice – first for the crime that we committed, and secondly for the crime committed against us – is discriminatory. This affects some of the most vulnerable victims, penalising those who may have been criminalised as a result of the rape trauma they have endured. Victims often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to soothe their pain, and then get convicted. Sex workers, even those without criminal convictions, face moralistic judgements on their ‘character and conduct’. We don’t want divisive moral judgements by the CICA as either good or bad victims.

5.   Time limit – Paragraphs 87-89.
There is a two year time limit after the crime to make a claim, or if it occurred when the victim was a child, two years from our 18th birthday. This rule disregards the common delays and pressures we face in rape investigations and trials. Also, the police advise victims not to claim until the end of a trial as defence barristers often argue that compensation is a motive for a false allegation. Delays may put a claim out of time through no fault of our own. Secondly, the trauma of rape and the prosecution process prevents many victims from applying within two years. The time limit must be extended to at least five years, longer for those raped as children.

6.   Victims have to co-operate with the prosecution as far as reasonably possible – Paragraph 23.
Many drop out because of trauma, intimidation by their attacker, lack of confidence in the prosecution process, lacklustre investigation or hostility from the police. Yet the CICA rarely accepts victims’ legitimate reasons to withdraw from the prosecution – even, as in one case, the shock and fear of being sexually harassed by the police officer investigating the rape was rejected as a valid reason for the victim to withdraw. When the police are hostile and give evidence against an award, the CICA invariably values their word over the victim’s.

7.   There is no legal aid and unrepresented survivors can face hostile and upsetting questioning by CICA lawyers.
A CICA hearing can be worse than a criminal trial – with questions like, what we wore and why we didn’t scream. CICA appeals which are held in private, evading public scrutiny, have fallen behind updated protection for vulnerable witnesses in criminal courts and other hearings. The CICA internal guidance for questioning vulnerable witnesses is neither public nor transparent and thus evades legal challenge.

Compensation is often the only official acknowledgement of rape we get, given the low conviction rate of 6%. An award can speed recovery, as many women suffer catastrophic mental and physical injuries. Patients struggle to get treatment from the depleted NHS and dwindling therapeutic services – many face years on a waiting list and rationed appointments. In addition, we suffer life changing impacts such as losing a job, eviction, marital breakdown, being unable to cope with children, fear of public transport . . .

The basic award for rape is a mere £11,000, and this does not stretch far. Amounts should be increased, and decisions speeded up. There is a minefield of rules which put people off, as described above. Most don’t even know the Scheme exists or applies to them.

Yours sincerely,

signed so far by the following organisations:
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre
CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse), Colchester
Cohen Cramer Solicitors, Mike Massen, Partner
Colchester & Tendring Women’s Aid
Coventry Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC)
Davenport & Cale Green Branch Labour Party
Disabled People Against the Cuts
Dundee Women’s Aid
English Collective of Prostitutes
Legal Action for Women
National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)
Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsiblity
Psychologists for Social Change
Psychologists and Counsellors Union
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Rape Crisis Scotland
Solace Women’s Aid
Somerset & Avon Rape & Sexual Abuse Support
Taxpayers Against Poverty
WinVisible – Women With Visible and Invisible Disabilities

 

Add your Organisation or law firm by emailing us –
please specify if you are signing on behalf of this organisation

Please return signed to Women Against Rape via email war@womenagainstrape.net
Or post to WAR, Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

 www.againstrape.net  Twitter: #AgainstRape             Phone: 020 7482 2496

[1] ‘Hundreds of sexual assault victims refused compensation for minor convictionsIndependent; ‘Rape victims denied compensation for petty convictions’ – Guardian and ‘Hundreds of rape victims denied compensation’ Scottish Herald