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August 5th 2020

CICA

Legal expert praises Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority for awarding damages in late claims relating to sex abuse but highlights shortfalls over ‘non-contact’ crimes

Malcolm Johnson

Malcolm Johnson

Senior Solicitor, Abuse

Legal expert praises Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority for awarding damages in late claims relating to sex abuse but highlights shortfalls over ‘non-contact’ crimes

Senior Solicitor Malcolm Johnson, of Hudgell Solicitors, assesses the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority review and the impact on victims.

Senior Solicitor Malcolm Johnson, of Hudgell Solicitors, assesses the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority review and the impact on victims.

A new report has revealed how a Government scheme to compensate innocent victims of violent crime has used its discretion to good effect in allowing late applications in the majority of cases where victims of sexual assault and abuse have applied for compensation.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) review, by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), says that of approximately 75,000 applications analysed, around 13,000 were submitted after the two-year time limit from the date of the offence being reported.

Of those, 82% related to applications for damages from victims of sexual assault, 72% still received a compensation award, reflecting ‘an understanding of the difficulties these victims face in reporting these crimes’, the report says.It concludes that ‘the scheme is working well for the majority of victims of child sexual abuse’.

As lawyers who represent many victims of sexual abuse and assault, and have represented at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, this is something we certainly welcome.

It demonstrates that, when presented with the right information in applications, and in cases where allegations have been made to the relevant authorities, the scheme can be flexible and still provide support those who have suffered.

From experience, our team at Hudgell Solicitors knows that many victims of crimes find applying for compensation via this scheme daunting, when they apply alone and without legal support.

For too long, too many victims of crime have been prevented from securing legal redress because of outdated rules and a fixed approach.

We repeatedly called for a change to the ‘same roof rule’, which for decades prevented people claiming damages if they were abused by somebody they lived with, and was finally abolished last year.

Now, this review, the first since 2012, has considered whether the CICA process remains fit for purpose, questioning if it still reflects the changing nature of violent crime and whether it fully supports people in their recovery.

Victims of ‘non-contact’ offences such as grooming and stalking not included

One of the key areas considered was whether enough is done to compensate those who suffer from ‘non-contact’ offences, which have increased in prevalence over the past eight years.

These include grooming, online exploitation, coercive control, stalking, and modern slavery.

There had been calls from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse for the scope to be expanded to include such forms of abuse, yet the review says widening the definition beyond crimes that are ‘violent in nature, and involve touching and physical contact or threat of immediate violence’, would mean ‘going far beyond the original intention of the scheme.’

This is despite the MoJ acknowledging that victims of such crimes may experience psychological and emotional harm and trauma.

Our work at Hudgell Solicitors constantly highlights to us how victims of ‘non-contact’ abuse are amongst the most badly let down in our society.  All too often too little is done to prevent matters escalating to physical violence and their calls for help fall on deaf ears.

The review says that ‘victims of some of those crime types may need specialist, tailored and longer-term support to recover from their ordeal’, so it seems strange that the MoJ is not willing to provide a compensation route to ensure people can secure such crucial help.

My colleagues in our Civil Liberties department at Hudgell Solicitors are involved in a number of cases relating to these kinds of crimes, often resulting in damages settlements being secured for the failure of police forces and other bodies to fully investigate alleged crimes or threats.

In a number of cases, lives have sadly been lost because authorities have failed to take appropriate action to protect vulnerable people.

Whilst there may not currently be a route to compensation through CICA for these crimes, our teams will continue to represent victims through other civil procedures and courts. We will also continue to canvass for the scope of the scheme to be extended to support these victims.

We have a track record of holding public bodies to account and securing damages to compensate people for their suffering, and to cover the cost of any additional specialist support they require.

How Hudgells can help with criminal injuries compensation applications

The Government has now asked the public and victims’ organisations to contribute to a consultation, which will be closing on October 9th.

We hope that the changes which are made will deliver a service which makes access to justice more obtainable for all.

In our work at Hudgell Solicitors, we are proud of the record we have in helping victims of crime negotiate their way through the CICA process.

We’ve helped many secure compensation after initially being rejected by the scheme, and supported many more to challenge the damages awards they are offered to receive much higher compensation payments.

Our team will study the changes closely and be best prepared to represent people who are victims of crime, whether that be through CICA, or other civil procedures, in the years to come.

Our specialist departments are experienced in supporting victims of sexual assault and abuse in pursuing legal action for damages. These include;

  • Civil Liberties – Specialists in seeking damages where police forces fail to fully investigate cases relating to sexual abuse and assault. Contact Vicky Richardson
  • Criminal Injuries – Lawyers with in-depth knowledge of the CICA scheme and a track record of securing damages for victims of violent crime through the application process. Contact Paul Cain
  • Abuse – Helping survivors of historic abuse to seek damages reflecting the significant, long-term physical and mental suffering associated with such crimes. Contact Malcolm Johnson

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