A Kentish Town-based organisation has launched a petition demanding the government stop denying compensation to victims of sexual assault who have unrelated unspent convictions.
The Ministry of Justice-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) makes payments to victims of violent crime. Since 2012, however, compensation is denied to women with unspent convictions – something a 2020 government review di not address.
Launching the petition by Women Against Rape (WAR), spokesperson Lisa Longstaff said: “No criminal record can justify denying compensation to victims of sexual assault.”
She said most offences used to deny compensation are very minor. They can include drink or drugs offences, shoplifting and non-payment of TV licences.
Lisa said individual circumstances are not considered, adding: “Rape has practically been decriminalised, seeing as the sexual assault conviction rate has fallen to below 1% of reported cases."
A freedom of information request by the Metro discovered that 895 sexual assault survivors were denied compensation between 2015 and 2020.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “While unspent convictions can lead to reduced or withheld compensation to reflect the harm offenders have done to society, we are clear that victims of rape should receive the support they need.
"That is why our compensations scheme is one of the most generous in the world – paying out over £150 million to victims last year and we are further supporting victims by increasing funding for vital services to £185m a year.”
WAR says victims are rarely made aware of their entitlement to compensation, and that compensation rules are designed to catch people out. Those who can access reliable legal representation often have to pay 25% of what they receive to their lawyer.
The group is a grassroots, multiracial organisation that provides rights information and advocacy to victims of sexual, domestic and racist violence, and campaigns for change.
It says that although compensation does not prevent attackers from reoffending, it is often the only official acknowledgement that sexual abuse survivors can get of serious crimes they have suffered. It can also help to fund the sometimes-substantial cost of recovery.
The petition can be found at www.change.org/p/stop-denying-compensation-to-victims-of-sexual-assault