When someone is abused by a family member or a person living in the same household, they’ve often been through the most traumatic of experiences.
These haunting memories can cause long-term suffering and abuse survivors often do not disclose what happened to them until many years later.
Imagine how disappointed these people must feel when they realise that their fight for justice is going to be anything but easy. Imagine how let down they must feel when the law states that they are not entitled to compensation for the suffering they endured as victims of child sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, for anyone abused by a perpetrator who lived in their household before 1st October 1979, this is the painful reality – because of the outdated ‘same roof rule’ which discriminates against these blameless victims of violent crime.
This out-dated and archaic rule is why I 100 per cent support a campaign calling on the Government to take immediate action and reform the law so that survivors of sexual abuse can gain access to the justice they deserve.
What is the same roof rule?
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), a Government-run scheme which was set up in 1996 to help innocent victims receive the compensation and support they need to get their life back on track, does not allow anyone to make a claim if they were abused prior to 1st October 1979 and lived in the same household as the perpetrator.
The original intention behind this clause, which dates back to part of the very first CICA Scheme in 1964, was to prevent assailants who may still be living with the victim benefiting from a CICA award.
The rule was finally abolished on 1 October 1979. The CICA now have other clauses which prevent an abuser from getting their hands on a victim’s money. However, for some peculiar reason, the revision was not retrospective – and means that people who were abused by someone living within their own household prior to 1st October 1979 could not bring a claim.
In the years which have followed, the CICA have introduced successive schemes – all of which have kept the same unjust rule. It means that a child abused by a mother, father, step-parent, grand-parent or family member who was living with them prior to this date, cannot obtain compensation from the CICA – even if there is a subsequent conviction and they no longer live together.
In my opinion, the fact this rule still exists is discriminatory and unfair on victims of historic abuse – and it should be abolished by the Government immediately. Doing this would allow abuse survivors to make a claim equally and without prejudice, granting access to justice and compensation for the suffering they have endured.
Why the Government must change this unjust law
The current campaign to change the law and transform the current CICA Scheme is being led by Ekklesia, an independent thinktank which tries to highlight issues which arise because of the changing role of beliefs and values in modern public life. They have teamed up with well-known charities Liberty, Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Rape Crisis and the National Working Group to demand an urgent overhaul of the Scheme.
They want the Justice Secretary to relax the ‘same roof’ rule which prevents survivors of sexual abuse from before 1st October 1979 claiming compensation if they lived with their abuser as a member of the same family.
Since 2015, they believe that at least 180 survivors of abuse have been refused compensation under the ‘same roof rule’ imposed by the CICA. In some cases, siblings who suffered abuse at the hands of their father received different compensation outcomes because some of the abuse took place before the 1979 cut-off date and some after.
This cannot be right in a society where we strive and encourage people to treat others fairly, equally and with dignity.
Somewhat significantly, there have been a number of unsuccessful legal challenges to the ‘same roof rule’ over the years, including one that went before the European Court of Human Rights (Stuart v UK Unreported 6th July 1999). In 2015, the rule was also upheld when an attempt was made to argue that it offended against the Equality Act 2010.
In my opinion, as a specialist abuse solicitor with more than three decades of experience to call upon, the law as it currently stands is wholly and morally wrong. For the sake of those who have suffered unimaginable pain, we can only hope that this ongoing campaign gets rid of this unjust rule forever.