ACAL do a lot of work in partnership with APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) , particularly because our interests often overlap in that we are both concerned with personal injury claims, albeit of a different type.

APIL are concerned about the way in which the CICA ("Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority - for more details follow this link)  are treating vulnerable adults including the victims of child abuse. As we share concerns about the CICA, our treasurer, Jonathan Wheeler, has penned a letter to the Lord Carlile in the House of Lords, which is reproduced here:-

"The Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE
House of Lords
London
SW1A 0PW

17th June 2013

Dear Lord Carlile

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and victims of abuse

I have been urged by my colleague Neil Sugarman to write you in relation to criminal injuries compensation for victims of child abuse, a subject which I understand is of particular interest to you. At Neil’s behest, Deborah Evans has already written to you on this subject via the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). Like Neil I am a member of APIL’s national executive, but I am also the Treasurer of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and I write to you on their behalf.

The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (“ACAL”) comprises a membership of about 80 individuals, who practice in the area of child abuse compensation claims for victims of abuse in childhood.  Our membership comprises solicitors, barristers, experts, students and other interested parties such as costs draftsmen and support group members.  The Association was set up in late 1997 as a result of concerns within the legal profession that people who had been abused in childhood were either unable to find lawyers, or experiencing poor standards of advice and assistance.  Our clients require careful handling, so traumatised are they by the crimes which have been committed against them, and for which they seek redress in the form of justice and compensation. The abuse that our clients have suffered ranges from bullying through physical and sexual abuse to kidnapping, torture, and trafficking.  Our clients are often vulnerable, disadvantaged and dysfunctional.

As I am sure you are aware, there are often two routes to compensation for the people we represent. Many of our clients can obtain redress through the civil courts against their abusers directly, or the organisations that employed them. In addition, where clients have co-operated with the police in reporting the abuse, they may be eligible for an award from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). Our solicitor members will advise clients on both routes for redress. You will be aware that the CICA does not pay for applicants to be legally represented and the scheme is supposed to be one that can be easily accessed by members of the public.

For some time we have had concerns with regard to the CICA scheme:

  • Firstly, there is little publicity for the scheme and clients who approach our members often do not know of its existence. Even those who have been through the process of reporting their abuser to the police, and even subsequently a criminal trial, are not necessarily sign posted by the agencies with which they have engaged to seek compensation from the CICA. It should be noted that – understandably perhaps – the prosecuting authorities are not keen on informing victims of their rights to compensation whilst criminal enquiries are on-going and if there is a prospect of the victim having to give evidence at trial. This however impacts on the application of the time limits by which CICA applications have to be lodged (my second point below). I understand that in 2008 the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons criticised the CICA’s chief executive for failing to publicise the scheme effectively. In our view since then nothing has been done to address this point. Local authorities and others who may care for abuse victims as children do not routinely consider whether a CICA claim should be made. In short, many people are denied their rights to compensation through ignorance of the scheme and much more should be done to publicise its existence. Compensation awarded can pay for much needed therapy or treatment, helping victims to become valuable, functioning members of our society and to lead fulfilled lives.  [1]
  • Secondly, the time limits within which to apply for CICA awards are arbitrarily applied. The scheme in its latest form (from 27th November 2012) allows applications within 2 years of the assault or within 2 years of reporting the assault to the police (whichever is later). There is discretion to dis-apply those time limits which is rarely exercised by the case workers and often has to be tested on appeal to the Criminal Injuries Tribunal. One has to understand that the very act of abuse has an inhibiting effect on victims’ disclosure, which often comes much later than other crimes. Victims report feeling isolated, and are put off from disclosing because of feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation. As children, they may have been threatened not to tell which has a profound effect on that person’s psyche and which can carry through however irrationally into adulthood. Survivors may experience mental health problems with addictions to alcohol and drugs which again may inhibit their proper functioning and their ability to seek help and support. Many feel they will never be believed if they disclose. The application of time limits within which to apply for compensation from the scheme rarely take these difficulties into account. The problem is compounded by the lack of awareness around the scheme’s existence and the failings of agencies to signpost victims to the scheme (my first point above).
  • Thirdly, to obtain proper compensation under the tariff scheme operated by the CICA, psychological or psychiatric evidence is required to qualify for the higher tariffs. However provision for such expert help available on the NHS is – at best - patchy throughout the country, and many of our clients will not have been treated appropriately, or have the means to do so. This will effectively rule them out of the higher awards under the CICA’s tariff scheme because without the evidence of a psychiatrist or psychologist they are not deemed to reach these higher tariffs.

I hope this gives you a flavour of our concerns and that this is useful to you. My organisation would of course be very happy to provide further information, supporting evidence, or case studies should this be helpful. If you do feel that ACAL can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely
JONATHAN WHEELER
Treasurer
Office direct line: 020 7288 4837
Mobile: 07894 397 728
Email: jonathanwheeler@boltburdonkemp.co.uk


[1] Some interesting statistics relating to the number of rape victims accessing compensation through the CICA were provided by Vera Baird QC at a presentation she gave to some members of my organisation on the 29th February 2012. She spoke of a ‘Triangle of Attrition’: In 2009 -2010, 51,429 women disclosed rape according to the British Crime Survey. 9,102 reported this to the police. 2,479 men were proceeded against resulting in 884 convictions. Between 778 to 1885 people were awarded compensation for rape by the CICA (answers to parliamentary questions 22nd November 2011 and 15th July 2011): “Compensation Matters: How the CICA responds to applications from survivors/ victims of rape”, originally presented at the 5th North East Conference on Sexual Violence at Durham University, Vera Baird QC and Professor Jill Radford, 28th November 2011.