Up to 7,500 people who were abused by people they lived with may now apply for damages from the Government following a decision to abolish a 55-year-old law which had previously prevented them from doing so.
The BBC has today reported that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) believes a recent High Court ruling to abolish the ‘Same Roof Rule’, which has until now prevented thousands of people seeking damages for their suffering, could result in having to pay total damages payments of up to £126m.
The 55-year-old law, preventing victims of attacks and abuse by people they lived, was established when the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) was formed in 1964.
It aimed to prevent perpetrators benefiting from the CICA award themselves, but subsequently denied the victims of crime access to legal redress themselves, something the CICA was established by the Government to do.
The ‘Same Roof Rule’ law was changed on October 1, 1979 to allow people to gain legal redress for being abused by someone they lived with, but not retrospectively.
It is now finally being overturned completely after judges ruled in favour of a victim at the Court of Appeal, saying the law was ‘arbitrary and unfair, ‘amounted to unlawful discrimination’ and breached victims’ human rights.
Hudgell Solicitors representing people in same roof rule compensation claims
Hudgell Solicitors are already acting for people who would have previously been denied the opportunity to see legal redress, but can now do so.
And Solicitor Paul Cain says the numbers being predicted by the MOJ and CICA highlight the ‘huge scale injustice’ of the past five decades.
“The 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,” he said.
“It has also said that there could be as many as 3,500 new applicants come forward now that the law is being changed. There are also more than 200 live cases currently with the CICA which previously may have been rejected under the rule.
“We are talking about this potentially affecting around 7,500 people who, until now, have been denied any legal redress for their suffering. It has been injustice on a huge scale.”
Of 350 applications refused over the past five years by CICA relating to the ‘Same Roof Rule’ law, 94 per cent have been relating to sexual abuse against a child.
In papers seen by Hudgell Solicitors, the CICA says it expects most cases to involve ‘multiple incidents of abuse over an extended period of time’.
It suggests the ‘lower’ compensation settlements will be in the region of £16,500, with cases involving the ‘most serious sexual offences against a child’ likely to see damages around £22,000 or higher.
The CICA is expecting 60 per cent of applications to be made in the first two years of the law being official passed.
Legal support can help abuse survivors apply to CICA
Mr Cain added: “We are talking about people abused at the most vulnerable time of their lives as children, and then being left to try and deal with what happened to them for the rest of their lives, without ever being given the option of legal redress that others have rightly had for the past 40 years.
“These cases are all harrowing and made all the worse by the fact the people we are representing feel they have been let down firstly as children and then again as adults.
“We are very conscious that people have been through enough suffering and making an application at this stage – so many years after the abuse happened – can be daunting. It is why we support them by gathering the evidence they need.
“People often don’t come forward because they think they won’t have sufficient evidence to prove or back up their abuse allegations after all these years, especially if there were no criminal hearings or convictions.
“However, we can tap into a variety of sources, some of which date back years, to help verify what went on. This can include personal records held by Social Services, records of police investigations, the health service or a GP.
“Sometimes people have reported ‘psychological’ problems and this in itself is an indication of the abuse they suffered. If someone was convicted of abuse years later, we can also use this as evidence.”
It is expected that around a third of applicants will need assessing by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist to establish any mental impact linked to their suffering.
The change in law could also lead to police having to respond to more request for information, and new reports about historical offences which ‘will need to be investigated’ a Government report on the matter says.