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September 10th 2018

Criminal Injuries

Abolishing ‘same roof rule’ gives abuse survivors deserved access to justice

Malcolm Johnson

Malcolm Johnson

Senior Solicitor, Abuse

Abolishing ‘same roof rule’ gives abuse survivors deserved access to justice

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.

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.

Thankfully, those who have been affected in this way can now seek the justice they deserve after the Government abolished the controversial ‘same roof rule’ which had been in place since 1979.

At Hudgell Solicitors, we have strongly campaigned for this outdated law to be scrapped because it unfairly discriminated against blameless victims of violent crime. When the ‘same-roof rule’ first came under scrutiny in July 2018, because the Court of Appeal declared that it was incompatible with human rights laws, we were enthused that justice finally looked to be on the horizon.

Prior to this, anyone abused by a perpetrator who lived in their household before 1st October 1979 was not entitled to compensation for the suffering they endured as victims of child sexual abuse under UK law.

Now that the Government has confirmed that this archaic rule will be abolished, thousands of survivors of sexual abuse will finally be able to get the justice and compensation they deserve without prejudice.

What was the same roof rule?

The ‘same-roof rule’ prevented anyone from make a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) if they were abused prior to 1st October 1979 and lived in the same household as the perpetrator.

The CICA is a Government-run scheme which was set up to help innocent victims receive the compensation and support they need to get their life back on track.

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 as the CICA had other clauses which prevented an abuser from getting their hands on a victim’s money. However, for some peculiar reason, the revision was not retrospective – and meant 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 introduced successive schemes – all of which kept the same unjust rule – until it was finally abolished by the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, in September 2018.

Prior to this decision, it meant that a child abused by a mother or father, step-parent, grand-parent or family member who was living with them before this date, could not obtain compensation from the CICA – even if there is a subsequent conviction and they no longer live together.

How was the campaign won?

The successful campaign to change the law and transform the CICA Scheme, led by Ekklesia, proves what can be accomplished when people work together to eradicate discriminatory and unfair rules.

Ekklesia, an independent thinktank which tries to highlight issues which arise because of the changing role of beliefs and values in modern public life, worked in conjunction 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 worked hard to get the Justice Secretary to relax the ‘same roof’ rule and the decision to bring forward secondary legislation to abolish the rule was welcomed by the charities involved.

In a joint statement, they said: “As a coalition, we have long campaigned to get justice for victims of child sexual abuse who have lost out due to illogical rules governing the scheme.

“We are glad the Ministry of Justice has listened to our concerns, so victims will at long last get the compensation they so rightly deserve.”

What will happen now?

Since 2015, 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.

As part of the new review, applications for compensation which have previously failed will be reconsidered. This means we are now legally able to deliver justice to hundreds of people who were previously denied compensation.

Other possible changes to the post-1979 same-roof rule will now be considered – including:

  • The scheme’s time limit – applications must currently be made by a person over 18 no later than two years after the date of the incident.
  • Changing the rule which automatically excludes applicants if they have an unspent conviction that resulted in a specified sentence.
  • Broadening the definition of a “crime of violence” to include sexual exploitation and grooming.
  • Review the suitability of support provided to victims of terrorism.
  • The sustainability of the scheme and the affordability of any changes.

As a specialist abuse solicitor with more than three decades of experience to call upon, I am of the opinion that this decision by the Government has finally eradicated a law which was wholly and morally wrong. Hopefully, for the sake of those who have suffered unimaginable pain, justice can now be served.

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