Children as young as 12 are being refused compensation by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), on grounds that they “consented” to their abuse.
The CICA has refused to provide compensation to around 700 young victims of sexual abuse since 2012, with blocked payouts ranging from £1,000 to £44,000. The information was revealed as part of a Freedom of Information request by a group of charities including Victim Support, Liberty and Barnardo’s, who have since written to Justice Secretary David Lidington, challenging the CICA to review guidelines on how it deals with sexual abuse cases.
Despite it being a criminal offence to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 16, charities fear that the rules around payouts are being wrongly interpreted by the CICA, with underage children not receiving compensation because they supposedly consented to the abuse they suffered.
The charity coalition is demanding that the CICA change its rule on sexual abuse so that no child under the age of 16 is denied compensation. They rightly argue that consent through fear or lack of understanding isn’t consent, and that sexual abuse is a result of grooming and manipulation.
According to a recent YouGov poll, two thirds (66%) of people think the rules surrounding payouts to child victims of sexual abuse should be changed, and that refusal on grounds of “consent” should be scrapped in the case of sexual abuse of minors.
Speaking to the Independent, Martha Spurrier, director of human rights charity Liberty, said that it was a “disgrace” that the CICA would even imply that children had consented to their abuse, let alone deny them compensation. She said that the government “must urgently change these guidelines”, words echoed by Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan.
In one case where the CICA refused to pay compensation, a young girl aged 14 was repeatedly raped by a gang of older men, only to have her compensation claim quashed because she had reputedly “not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts”. This verdict came after the men responsible were jailed for 30 years — raising questions about how the CICA can justify its decisions on cases of child sexual abuse.
CICA Harming Young Abuse Victims, Not Helping Them
Under current guidelines, the CICA is harming young victims of sexual abuse by denying them compensation for the traumatic and life-changing abuse they’ve suffered. Not only are children missing out on monetary payments which are vital in securing aftercare and support, they’re effectively being shunned by a system designed to protect them — leaving them vulnerable, demoralised and with nowhere left to turn.
The complexities of consent have no place in cases of sexual activity relating to minors. Echoing the comments of Miss Spurrier, it’s a disgrace that young victims should be questioned on the circumstances of their abuse — particularly by a government agency whose sole purpose is to secure compensation for “blameless victims” of violent crime and abuse.
We stand beside the charity coalition in calling on the CICA to review its guidelines in relation to child sexual abuse, and hope that by further publicising the issue we can help to get justice for the 700 young lives left in turmoil by the agency’s unjust conclusions.
If your child was refused compensation by the CICA after suffering sexual abuse, our experienced criminal injury solicitors can help you appeal the decision. For more information, visit our CICA compensation claims page or take a look at our guide on what to do if your application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is turned down.