The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and the “consent” of child victims of sex abuse

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Campaigning sex abuse lawyer, Liz Duncan, takes a hard-hitting look at the CICA’s approach to ‘consent’ in cases involving child abuse

The Government’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a fund set up to compensate innocent victims of crime. However the CICA’s determination of claims for compensation is often controversial and the organisation has been making headlines again for refusing to compensate children who have been sexually abused on the basis that they “consented” to their abuse.

Although it is illegal to have sexual activity with a child under 16 years old, the CICA distinguishes between legal consent and “consent in fact”. The CICA’s revised guidance states that “where the sexual activity is truly of the applicant’s free will no crime of violence will have occurred”. The CICA even considers that there could be cases where children under the age of 12 may have consented “in fact”.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority seemingly refuses to take account of the criminal nature of the abuse, adopting this approach in cases where a court has jailed an abuser for appalling crimes against their young victims. This includes some victims of child-grooming rings, like Sammy Woodhouse, one of the victims of the Rotherham grooming gang, whose evidence was critical in securing convictions. She was told by the CICA in response to her application:

“I am not satisfied that your consent was falsely given as a result of being groomed by the offender. The evidence does not indicate that you were manipulated or progressively lured into a false relationship.”

This was despite her abuser being jailed for 35 years, having been convicted of multiple offences including rape, abduction and indecent assault.

However, following a successful review and appeal against the CICA’s decision Sammy Woodhouse was eventually compensated by the CICA, and rightly so.

The CICA’s approach demonstrates in my opinion a woeful ignorance of the process of grooming and abuse and places the blame on the victim for having been abused. It sends the message that although a jury has believed a victim of abuse, recognising the ordeal they have gone through, a civil servant making decisions at the CICA can still blame the victim for “consenting” to the abuse. And it is on the basis of this flawed logic that the authority refuses to pay compensation.

The CICA’s outdated views on the dynamics of sexual abuse impacts directly on victims. It can come as a devastating blow to a vulnerable person who has  suffered abuse (usually involving both physical and psychological harm) to be told that they are not deserving of compensation because they themselves were to ‘blame’ for the crime.

At Slee Blackwell we understand the process of grooming. We understand that submission is not the same as consent. We understand that there is no consent where that submission has been forced from someone by the grooming process. We fight for victims of abuse to be properly compensated by the CICA.

For free advice about sexual abuse claims please contact us in complete confidence on 0808 130 1590 or email elizabeth.duncan@sleeblackwell.co.uk.

Abuse Lawyer, Liz Duncan