11:16, September 19 75 0 theguardian.com

2017-09-19 11:16:03
Lack of compensation for child sexual abuse victims 'unacceptable'

The children’s commissioner for England has condemned draft government rules that mean children as young as 12 could miss out on compensation because they “consented” to their own sexual abuse.

Anne Longfield called for the justice secretary, David Lidington, to rewrite the “deeply shocking” child sexual abuse guidelines drawn up by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

The draft guidance, revealed by the Guardian last week, means that, even if their abuser has been jailed, some child victims of sexual assault could be refused compensation on the grounds that they “consented”.

The children’s commissioner, who is appointed by the government, said on Tuesday that the rules were “at odds with the law, public opinion and with the government’s definition of child abuse, published in February, which states that child sexual exploitation ‘can still be abuse even if the sexual activity appears consensual’.”

Longfield said in a blogpost that victims of child-grooming rings were the most likely to be refused compensation by the CICA and that, according to specialist child abuse lawyers, many claims had been rejected.

The case of Sammy Woodhouse, the Rotherham grooming gang survivor who was initially refused compensation by CICA, was “just the tip of the iceberg”, she said.

“Why is this happening? Put simply, some victims are not receiving compensation because CICA is applying guidelines that assume they consented to sex, even if their abuser has been jailed. That is simply unacceptable.”

Longfield said the law was clear: the age of consent was 16, and it was also an offence for a person aged 18 or over to engage in sexual activity with a person under 18 if the older person holds a position of trust.”

“It’s clear to me that the present guidelines are failing victims,” she said.

“I will continue to push CICA and the Ministry of Justice to look at them again and to change them so that those who have gone through the most appalling abuse receive recognition that they were not to blame, that their lives have been severely affected and that they deserve some compensation to try to rebuild their lives.”

She called on Lidington to insist the CICA’s new guidance did not “fail victims and add insult to injury”, adding to the pressure already placed on Lidington by MPs.

It is illegal to have sexual activity with a person under 16, but the CICA does not automatically pay compensation to victims. The government body began a review of its guidelines in July when it emerged that almost 700 child victims had been denied payments.

Longfield said it was soul-destroying for child victims to have the CICA reject compensation claims, which were about much more than money. They were “recognition that the justice system and the state formally believes you – that the ordeal you have been through and its impact on your life is finally recognised, often after years of not being believed”.

She said victims were likely to have left school without qualifications or training, and were likely to be in low-paid work or unemployed.

“We aren’t talking about huge sums of money here, but for many, a few thousand pounds will help to turn around a life. I’ve heard of victims who have used it to go to university or college for the first time, or to set up their own businesses. Some feel that finally something positive has come out of the horrors they have had to go through as children.”

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.