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MINISTRY OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES REVIEW OF COMPENSATION RULES ON SEXUAL OFFENCES – a VICTORY for grassroots campaigners!
“Nobody should be made to feel worthless as you do when you get a compensation refusal letter.”
The announcement 9-10 September (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45462128) from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) that there will be a review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as it applies to people who were sexually abused when they were children, is an important victory and augers well for future applicants. Victims, women and men, have bravely publicized their case as part of the struggle with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) which had turned them down. Such campaigning at the grassroots must be credited for winning this review.
The MOJ will now consult and then consider, in claims for abuse suffered as children, extending the time limit, and revoking the punitive refusals to those who have criminal convictions. But there are further rules and practices that disproportionately deny compensation to rape survivors, such as: delays in reporting to the police, pulling out before a prosecution is concluded, and brutally cross-examining vulnerable applicants at hearings.
Over the past 18 months WAR has brought together a network of survivors across the UK. We hold regular online meetings to discuss tactics based on a variety of experiences. Accountable lawyers assist with claims and challenge the rules. Survivors have described the impacts of being denied compensation. We have put our collective demands in writing to the government, and secured publicity on social media and in the print and broadcast media, to build pressure for change. Survivors use a model letter to enlist help from their MPs.
A year ago we were informed by the MOJ that there was no plan to review these rules, other than the one raised by large charities and MPs, that the CICA refusals must end which assume that underage victims consented to sex, rather than having been coerced and groomed by adult abusers. This was rape and was not to be dismissed as consent!
We continued to campaign. After winning several important appeals, on 24 July we had news of a landmark judgment. The Appeal Court upheld a claimant’s right to compensation, who had been previously refused. Under the Same Roof Rule, if you were abused before October 1979 and lived with your attacker at the time, you were not entitled to compensation.
The claimant was identified as JT, who suffered serious sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather many years ago. He repeatedly abused her between the ages of four and 17, and was convicted in 2012 of eight offences including rape and sexual assault and was imprisoned for 14 years. This was the first time a court upheld a claimant’s right to compensation despite this Rule, which will now be deleted. Those who were attacked before 1979 will now be entitled to compensation.
This was won because survivors had been determined to fight. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommended in its interim report in April that the Same Roof Rule should be scrapped – after dozens of survivors and victims’ organisations gave evidence. Other official bodies followed suit.
Alissa Moore, who waived her anonymity, was refused compensation for rape by her father, while her sister, whose abuse continued after 1979, won an award. Alissa Moore has campaigned together with WAR, she said in July:
“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.”
Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape said of the MOJ’s announced review:
“We are thrilled that our collective efforts are paying off. We encourage everyone to fight for all the other applicants who have not won yet, and press the MOJ to abolish all the unjust rules. This includes women like Kim Mitchell who waived anonymity after she was denied compensation because of a minor criminal conviction last year. Now 36, she was denied compensation for sexual assault by a teacher when she was eight, which has had a significant impact on her mental health. Compensation, which is an expression of the community’s support for her against her abuser, would help her recover. She was already punished for her minor crime by the criminal justice system, why did CICA have to punish her again? This undervalues the public service she did in getting her abuser locked up – she had to report it three times before he was prosecuted, and she won a longer sentence on appeal.” [Read her story here] She is still fighting for compensation.]
Cuts in the compensation scheme were last made in 2012, after the government decided to save £50 million by tightening the rules. A hostile environment for rape survivors.
WAR, endorsed by over 40 organisations, lawyers and other professionals calls on the government (www.againstrape.net/compensation/openletter) to tackle all the discriminatory rules suffered by victims of sexual crimes, whether as children or adults.
We invite all survivors, organisations and agencies to urgently lobby their MP and the MOJ, so that all survivors get justice. Contact us if you’d like to be in touch and help.
Women Against Rape, 17 September 2018