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Major victory over same roof rule

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Court of Appeal, sexual abuse survivor, same roof rule, major vitory, criminal injuries compensation scheme, sexual abuse, stepfather, CICA, discriminationNo child groomed and manipulated into sexual abuse ‘complied with their abuse’.

On 24 July 2018 senior judges ruled the archaic ‘same roof rule’, which has denied some sexual abuse survivors Criminal Injuries Compensation, is incompatible with human rights law, after one survivor took her case to the Court of Appeal.

The woman, who was sexually abused by her stepfather from when she was aged 4 until she was 17, had previously been denied Criminal Injuries Compensation because the abuse took place before 1979 and she lived with her abuser at the time.

The woman, identified only as JT for legal reasons, was denied the right to damages because she shared a home with him – even though another victim of her stepfather received compensation.

The Guardian reported that Lord Justice Leggatt, who heard the appeal with Sir Terence Etherton and Lady Justice Sharp, said the rule was “arbitrary and unfair”.

The woman, known as JT, was living as a member of the same family as her abuser, whereas the other victim was not, this, Lord Justice Leggatt said, was “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.”

This landmark ruling means that sexual abuse survivors in similar situations will no longer be denied Criminal Injuries Compensation on this basis.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme for injuries caused to victims of violent crime in England, Scotland and Wales is administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), an executive agency of the UK government, and funded by the Ministry of Justice in England and Wales and the Justice Directorate in Scotland.

A charity coalition which included Rape Crisis, Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Liberty, and the National Working Group (NWG) wrote to the Justice Secretary David Lidington in July 2017 demanding the government urgently reviewed the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority’s guidelines.

According to a freedom of information request by the charity coalition, since the Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme was launched in November 2012, nearly 700 child victims of sexual abuse have been refused payments ranging between £1,000 and £44,000.

And although the law states it is a crime to have sexual activity with someone under the age of 16, this has not been reflected in compensation decisions. Payment rules were being interpreted to suggest children can consent to their abuse.

The chartiy coalition has been calling for the rules to be changed so that no child groomed and manipulated into sexual abuse is denied compensation because they complied with their abuse through fear, lack of understanding, or because they have been led to believe their abuser loved them.

Remarking on this week’s judgement, Rape Crisis England & Wales said: “We are so pleased for this woman and all the many sexual abuse survivors this anomalous, outdated and discriminatory policy affects. We pay tribute to her great strength and tenacity in pursuing her case to such a resounding victory.

“Rape Crisis has long campaigned for a complete overhaul of the current Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, which has routinely disadvantaged victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and other forms of sexual violence for far too long, in this and many other ways.

“Through our frontline experience of providing specialist emotional and practical support and advocacy to victims and survivors, we know the same roof rule has negatively impacted hundreds.

“Not only has it meant victims and survivors have been denied financial compensation that could support them in some small way to cope with the long-term impacts of sexual violence on their lives, but it has caused them additional and avoidable distress and trauma.

“The so-called ‘same roof rule’ has ignored the fact that sexual violence and abuse is so often perpetrated by someone known, trusted, even loved, within the victim’s or survivor’s own home.

“Denying those in these situations, many of whom were children at the time of the abuse, compensation on the grounds of cohabitation with the perpetrator has not only been ignorant but cruel, by implying that victims and survivors are in some way culpable for their experiences or for not having prevented their own abuse.”

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