Victims of sexual violence win Appeal Court victory
A landmark Appeal Court ruling on 24 July 2018 has reversed decades of injustice, upholding for the first time a claimant’s right to compensation even though she lived under the same roof as her attacker at the time.
The Appeal Court decided that the woman, identified as JT, who suffered years of serious sexual abuse by her stepfather when she a child, was entitled to compensation. The woman had been denied the right to damages because she shared a home with him at the time. Another victim of her stepfather who didn’t live with him did previously received compensation.
JT’s stepfather repeatedly abused her between the ages of four and 17. He was convicted in 2012 of eight offences, including rape and sexual assault, and imprisoned for 14 years.
Until now the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), which pays damages to victims of violent crime, has refused victims like her any payout because of the unfair same roof rule which denied compensation to victims who lived in the same home as their attacker before 1979 Hundreds of victims – mostly raped by fathers and husbands – will now be able to get redress.
The judges said the so-called “same-roof” rule, is “incompatible” with human rights laws.
Lord Justice Leggatt, who heard the appeal with Sir Terence Etherton and Lady Justice Sharp, said the rule was “arbitrary and unfair”. He said:
“A scheme under which compensation is awarded to [the other victim] but denied to JT is obviously unfair.
“It is all the more unfair when the reason for the difference in treatment – that JT was living as a member of the same family as her abuser, whereas [the other victim] was not – is something over which JT had no control and is a feature of her situation which most people would surely regard as making her predicament and suffering even worse.”
The reason given for the rule at the time was that abusers should not benefit from compensation paid to the victims they lived with, particularly in domestic violence. After years of criticism and campaigns, including by Women Against Rape, the law was altered in 1979 so that any future victims of such domestic crimes could claim compensation; but the change was not applied retrospectively.
Other reforms were made in 2012 following the government’s stated intention to save £50million from the Scheme. The same-roof rule was maintained because scrapping could increase the number of claims.
Alissa Moore, who waived her anonymity, was refused compensation while her sister, whose abuse continued after 1979, made a successful claim, and has campaigned together with WAR said today:
“I’m overwhelmed by this case. But it’s not just this rule – many people are turned down under other rules, like those with unspent convictions. The whole rule book needs rewriting. Nobody should be made to feel worthless as you do when you get a CICA refusal letter. We already were made to feel worthless our whole lives.”
Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape hailed this case as:
“A breakthrough for all those who have suffered horrific sexual abuse before 1979 and had been denied official acknowledgement and damages to help them recover. Most of them are victims of rape by fathers or older brothers who were unable to escape or report it until years later. Even though many had taken the enormous step to get their attacker investigated and convicted, the government continues to deny them compensation. We are really pleased the campaigning has paid off.”
WAR, backed by over 40 organisations, lawyers and other professionals, calls on the government to now tackle all the other injustices by CICA suffered by people who have been raped or abused, whether as children or as adults. (see http://againstrape.net/open-letter-for-compensation-to-secretary-of-justice)
JT’s case was brought in England and Wales. There are other challenges to the rule in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse recommended in its interim report in April that the rule be scrapped.