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Abuse lawyer condemns government's revised guidelines on compensation for survivors of child sexual abuse

A solicitor who specialises in representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation has condemned revised official guidelines proposed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and has welcomed calls for the Justice Secretary to rewrite the guidance.

Anonymous teen girl

18 September 2017

The CICA launched a review of its guidelines on compensating victims of violent and sexual crime earlier this year after concerns were raised about survivors of child grooming gangs being denied compensation, even when the perpetrators had been found guilty by the courts.  
 
Sammy Woodhouse, a survivor of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham who has waived her anonymity to talk about the issue, has revealed that she is one of nearly 700 child victims of sexual abuse who have been refused payments by the CICA. Ms Woodhouse told the Guardian she was “appalled” by the revised guidelines and called on Justice Secretary David Lidington to set up a team of experts, including survivors, to rewrite the guidelines.
 
The Guardian reported last week that a draft of the revised guidelines, which have been seen by a number of support charities, could still result in child survivors being denied compensation due to the guidelines’ approach to consent.
 
According to the Guardian the draft revised guidelines state that "the scheme recognises that there may be situations where a person aged under 16 has 'in fact' consented to sexual activity. Where the sexual activity is truly of the applicant's free will no crime of violence will have occurred”.
 
The guidelines reputedly state that where a child was under 12 at the time of the abuse the CICA will “presume that the child did not consent in fact unless the evidence to the contrary is very clear" – raising the possibility that children under 12 could also be found to have consented ‘in fact’.
 
Lidington told MPs last week that the CICA guidelines were being reviewed to ensure payments are made for survivors of child grooming gangs. However, following the leak of the draft revised guidelines, he has faced calls from survivors and fellow MPs to intervene to rewrite the guidelines in relation on consent.
 
Alison Millar, abuse solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said:
 
“It is very sad to see that despite the progress made in supporting survivors of child sexual abuse these guidelines still seem to fundamentally misunderstand the concept of consent in relation to child victims.
 
“Consent should have no place in determining criminal injuries compensation for survivors of sexual abuse where that abuse occurred when they were under the age of 16. The criminal law recognises the vulnerability of children and that consent to sexual activity cannot be freely and voluntarily given by a child, or by a young person where an adult holds a position of trust, responsibility or authority in relation to them.  The compensation scheme should take the same approach.
 
“It is appalling that these revised guidelines could lead to some survivors being denied compensation to rebuild their lives even where it has been determined by a court that they have been subjected to sexual offences and the perpetrator has been convicted.”

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