Victims of abusers who took their crimes to the grave without ever being convicted are amongst those who could finally secure legal redress as a result of changes to compensation laws.
The 55-year-old ‘Same Roof Rule’ – which until now has denied people abused by people they lived with before October 1979 the right to see damages – is finally being overturned following a landmark Court of Appeal ruling last year.
And it could pave the way for many people to make claims even if the perpetrators have long since died, without ever facing criminal convictions.
It includes one woman from West Yorkshire, now aged 59, who says she was subjected to physical and sexual abuse by her foster parents from the age of six.
The woman and her brothers and sisters all found themselves living in different homes and foster parents in the 1960s, after their father had been jailed for killing their mother.
“I was taken into foster care but I was abused throughout my childhood by my foster parents,” the woman said.
“My foster father would beat me and I can remember being thrown against every wall of the living room in their home, even having my head bashed against the wall on occasions.
“I wasn’t called by my name. I was referred to as ‘it’. It was a horrendous childhood. I’d be locked in my bedroom for hours, for so long that I had to go to the toilet in the corner of the room. I was sexually abused too, but had nowhere to turn.
“Where does a kid go when they are living in the same roof as an abuser? Who can they tell when they are so young?
“It is why this same roof rule has been so appalling.
“You can’t escape if you are a child and being abused by somebody who is meant to be caring for you.”
Following the death of her foster parents, the woman sought out details of her biological parents, discovering the full truth of what happened to her mother, and the jailing of her father. Both have since died also.
After talking to social services, she decided to pursue damages for what happened to her through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
Up to 7,500 applications for damages could be made following removal of same roof rule
CICA has confirmed that 4,000 applications have been refused under the Same Roof Rule since 1964 to today, and that it expects 70 per cent of those cases to now result in damages payments being awarded should those people reapply.
It has also said that there could be as many as 3,500 new applicants come forward now that the law is being changed.
Michelle Nurse, of Hudgell Solicitors, says that despite the woman’s foster parents never having faced criminal allegations or charges, she could be successful in her claim for damages, especially with the imminent change in law.
“One of the saddest aspects of abuse is that many victims never feel able to come forward and say what has happened whilst the perpetrators are alive. This means many are reluctant to seek the damages they are entitled to because it all happened years ago and they worry about the lack of evidence,” she said.
“For many, it is often only years after these people have taken their crimes to the grave that they feel able to discuss what has happened. In those situations however, their allegations can still be considered by the police and CICA.
“As specialist lawyers, we can provide vital support in such cases by requesting information from bodies such as social services and the health service, or by looking into police investigations of relevance.
“Often people have needed psychological support because of what happened to them also, and this can be used as evidence.
“The change in law with regards to the same roof rule will hopefully ensure thousands of people will finally have access to the legal redress they deserve.”