Sex attack victims denied compensation ‘because of unpaid TV licences’

Josh Layton

Nearly 1,000 reported victims of sexual assault have been denied compensation with many said to have had their claims rejected due to minor rule breaking.

The applicants had requests turned down for convictions including not owning a TV licence, shoplifting and sex work, according to campaign group Women Against Rape (WAR).

The claims were rejected by the Government’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) scheme over the past six years.

Figures released by CICA under the Freedom of Information Act show that 895 applications were denied and 331 reduced.

WAR has supported some of those making claims and highlighted applications that have been refused.

They include a woman who was repeatedly raped by two men when she was 13 being refused a payout because she had been prosecuted for driving without insurance and refusing to take a sample test.

Another example given by the London-based group is that of a victim who was seriously sexually assaulted by a teacher at the age of eight.

She did not qualify for compensation because she had been convicted of threatening her boss when he refused to pay her wages.

WAR has called for an overhaul of the Government-run scheme, saying that it has practised ‘terrible discrimination’ for decades.

The group argues that rules concerning unspent convictions disproportionately affecting victims of sexual offences, who may also have their ‘character and conduct’ called into question.

Spokesperson Lisa Longstaff told ‘It is outrageous that nearly 1,000 victims of sexual assault were denied any or some compensation on the grounds of unrelated and often very minor convictions such as for shoplifting, sex work or non-payment of a TV licence. We are all entitled.

‘This dividing victims between deserving and undeserving comes on top of the de facto decriminalisation of sexual violence.

‘Many are women who helped put dangerous serial attackers in prison, a service to public safety the CICA doesn’t value.

‘CICA rules make it so hard to get compensation that victims are retraumatised by the process. We are campaigning for all victims to get the justice and compensation we have a right to.’

The data released by CICA pertains to where the applicant selected ‘sexual assault’ as the incident type. In 2020, 173 applications were denied and another 53 reduced. This compares with 68 refused and 49 cut down in 2015, the earliest date in the timeframe provided by CICA.

The authority said it could not provide any details on why the claims were refused, citing an exemption in the Act placing a cost limit on manually retrieving information.

Under CICA rules, a claimant’s ‘character and conduct’ can be taken into account, which includes evidence of involvement in crime, minor cautions or reprimands and whether alcohol or drugs contributed to the person becoming a victim. A conviction does not need to have been secured in order for compensation to be paid out.

The Government has changed the system to include those who were previously denied payouts under the ‘same roof rule’, which barred payouts to victims whose attacker was a family member they were living with at the time of incident.

This was amended in 1979 but not made retrospective until three years ago, when the clause was abolished completely.

However, WAR says that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has failed to carry out a wider overhaul, despite the group having submitted evidence to a review of the CICA system. This was published in January 2021, making recommendations which did not reflect the group’s request to scrap rules used to deny payouts due to unspent convictions.

The concerns over compensation are part of a wider outcry over the safety of women on Britain’s streets, with figures showing that the rate for rape prosecutions has fallen to 1.5% in England and Wales.

In response, a Government review published earlier this month laid out plans to increase the volume of rape cases being referred from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service and better support for victims of sexual offences and domestic abuse.

CICA maintains that it paid out more than £195 million to victims of violent crime between 2019 and 2020.

Withheld or reduced compensation is not intended to minimise the fact that applicants with unspent criminal convictions may have been victims of serious crimes, according to the authority.

The rule is aimed at recognising that the applicant may themselves have caused distress, loss or injury to another person through the offence or offences for which they were convicted. Relevant information provided by the applicant, the police and, where appropriate, medical authorities is considered and a review can be requested.

A CICA spokesperson said: ‘We recognise the impact of these sickening crimes and are clear that victims should receive all the support they need.

‘That’s why our compensation scheme is one of the most generous of its kind in the world, with over £195 million paid to victims last year, and we are funding more rape support services than ever before to help them rebuild their lives.’