A 44-year-old man has been awarded £29,000 damages by a Government compensation scheme despite police not having enough evidence to bring criminal charges against his alleged abuser.
It comes after Hudgell Solicitors challenged an initial rejection of the case by Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) on his behalf.
Now, the man, who alleged he was regularly sexually abused by a neighbour when he was a child, has urged others who suffered similar abuse when they were younger to ‘never give up’ on seeking legal redress.
He says his damages settlement has finally helped him faced what happened to him three decades ago, when he was aged 11 to 13-years-old.
“I have put the abuse I have suffered to the back of my head for almost 30 years and to finally speak out was difficult. Then I was told no criminal charges could be brought against the man who ruined me. It was heartbreaking,” he said.
“He denied it and because 30 years had passed and the police couldn’t gather enough evidence to support what I alleged, the case had to be dropped.
“At that point I was going to give up but my partner, who was the person I first told and someone who had suspected something was wrong for many years, urged me to keep fighting for justice. I am so glad she did. You should never give up fighting for what is right.”
Man broke down and told partner he’d been abused as a child
The man alleged he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by his neighbour, who was ‘six or seven years older’, when they saw each other between 1986 and 1988, in the village of Great Shelford, near Cambridge.
He said they would see each other after school, weekends and during school holidays.
“We’d see each other a lot as he lived across the street and it was a close community. Kids hung around with one another in those days and you did mix with people a few years older. We’d knock on each other’s doors but I only ever went into his house, he never came into ours.
“We’d watch television together, but then it became physical and I didn’t really know what was going on. It would happen regularly, for more than a year, when his parents were not at his house.
“Looking back, as a child I had no idea what was happening was wrong and didn’t tell anybody. I believed it to be normal and it was only as I got older than I knew and realised I had been groomed and raped. That was so hard to live with.”
The secret of abuse was one the man kept from his first wife and their four children, and more recently his partner and her two children, who he now lives with.
However, in February 2016, he says a conversation when driving home from a night out triggered memories which made it clear all was not well.
“My partner was talking about something which happened to her as a child and how it still affected her and I just suddenly came over very panicky and anxious and had to stop the car,” he said.
“When we got home my partner was questioning me about what was wrong and it was then that I told her everything I had bottled up for so long.
“She’d always believed something had happened to me in my childhood. There are many things that trigger memories, no matter how hard and how deep you try and bury them.
“Things like television and radio interviews around abuse trigger it, and she had noticed that over the years. I’d always be quick to turn them off.”
Solicitors saw CICA case through review and appeal to secure damages
Having reported the matter to the police the man hoped he would see his attacker held accountable in court, but due to the period of time passed, and a lack of evidence, a criminal case was not pursued.
He said: “It was basically going to be my word against his, but although it couldn’t go to a trial I had a police officer, a doctor and psychiatrist telling me they were in no doubt what I said was correct and that it happened to me. There just wasn’t enough clear evidence to get a conviction, especially as so many years had passed.
“It was still difficult though, as I felt my whole life had been a lie because of hiding what had happened, and now even after I had spoken out it wasn’t enough. I was hurt and angry.”
It was then that the man turned to Hudgell Solicitors to seek civil redress, as Tracy Chapman, a litigation executive in the firm’s dedicated CICA department, explains.
“Many people wrongly assume that without a criminal conviction a CICA claim for damages cannot be pursued, but it can,” she said.
“We certainly felt in the case, given the account of our client and the statement he had made to the police, and the clear impact on his life and health, that a claim was justified.
“It wasn’t a straight-forward process as the original claim, submitted in March 2017, was rejected with the CICA saying that a crime of violence could not be established.
“We then submitted an application to review the decision, which was again rejected on the basis that the police could obtain no disclosure evidence, forensic evidence, physical witnesses or social care records to corroborate our client’s account, and that it is was one person’s word against another.
“However, we still felt that decision was wrong and so submitted an appeal which we attended with our client, and following a review of his video interview, and discussions involving police representatives, they were satisfied there had been a crime of violence and the case was passed back to the CICA for an award.”
Following further consideration and submissions from Hudgell Solicitors, an award in excess of £29,000 was offered in recognition of the sexual abuse suffered, and loss of earnings due to mental injuries.
Legal support was ‘incredible’
“To have a firm of lawyers prepared to challenge the CICA decision, and travel to London and stand by my side at the appeal was incredible. It made me feel that someone was there fighting for me and for justice,” the man added.
“When I was told I would be compensated I was amazed and I could have fallen over, but it was never ever about the money for me.
“I was denied the chance of going to court and holding this man to account for ruining my life and for making me as I am today, lacking confidence and not good at relationships. From the moment I spoke out about what happened I have not been able to work, and I had worked all my life previously. It has had such a huge impact on me.
“My life feels like it has been one big lie. That’s how you are made to feel when you are a victim of something like this as a child and you hide it for so long because you don’t feel you can speak out.
“Being awarded damages has made me open up and talk about it a bit more. I think that may help others as well.
“I’ve told some close family and I may tell our children when they are older. People need to understand. You have done nothing wrong, but that’s not always how it feels.”