Historical sex abuse victims are being denied thousands of pounds in criminal injuries compensation due to unfair time limits on making claims.
Children who were victims of sexual abuse have until their 20th birthday to apply for compensation if they reported the crime to the police before they reached 18 and campaigners are urging the government to change the regulations
The official line of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is that victims of historic sex abuse have two years from their 18th birthday to make a claim if the crime was reported to police when they were children.
The same two-year rule also applies to survivors who make a complaint to the police as adults.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority will still consider a criminal injuries compensation application if the time limit is not met, as long as it can be proved that there were exceptional circumstances preventing the application from being made sooner.
Mark Hunter, a personal injury solicitor at Mackrell& Thomas Solicitors, says the CICA abuse claim deadlines are wrong.
“It cannot be considered fair or reasonable to restrict the compensation rights for victims of historical sexual abuse simply because they have missed a very narrow deadline.
“It is also very unfair when many historic sex abuse victims have no awareness of the deadline or indeed the CICA scheme itself, primarily due to the lack of publicity and general communication from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
“We are calling on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority to review the time limit forsex abuse victims and to introduce a new framework for them to have a fair opportunity to claim the compensation they deserve.”
An unnamed woman from Milton Keynes, who was raped and assaulted by her dad as a teenager, has been denied criminal injuries compensation and is currently appealing the decision by CICA.
The 26-year-old made an initialcomplaint to the police when she was 14 but at the time felt she was unable to go through a lengthy court case.
She did eventually take her dad to court in October 2016 and he was sentenced to ten years in jail, having pleaded guilty – but she was denied criminal injuries compensation because of the two-year time limit.
She said: “Compensation isn’t something that even goes through your mind when you’re dealing with abuse. You’re just trying to get by day to day.
“I wasn’t even aware I could claim until close to the end of the trial, when Victim Support shoved some leaflets into my hand. My abuse meant my education suffered and I wanted to use the money to make a fresh start and go back to university for a PhD so I could really make something of my life.”
The woman was abused after her estranged dad got in touch with her.
“He took me out for dinner in London and gave me alcohol ‘like a grown-up’, then took me to stay at his and raped me,” she says.
“But it didn’t stop there. He started calling me every night and asking me questions, like what was I wearing. It went on for about six months.
“I told my mum and we went to the police. I gave statements but I felt I couldn’t go through with a court case because I felt so scared.”
Tortured by her ordeal, she took the case to court to find some sense of closure, but was dealt another severe blow when she was told she was not entitled to criminal injuries compensation.
“To go down the route of obtaining justice or compensation takes some doing and people can feel very intimidated.
“Some victims don’t feel they deserve a payment after what’s happened to them and setting a time limit just makes it worse.
“Sex abuse is an area of criminality that remains taboo and is very much swept under the carpet. This policy reinforces that.”