Urgent law changes needed to help child sex abuse victims get compensation

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird DBE QC Credit: ITV News

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner is calling for an urgent change in the law over compensation for child sex abuse victims.

Dame Vera Baird QC has described the current decision making process as a 'baffling form of victim blaming', as figures show hundreds of people are being denied recompense.

Information released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that, since a Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) scheme was launched in November 2012, nearly 700 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have been refused payments ranging between £1,000 and £44,000.

Dame Vera said: "While the law states it is a crime to have sexual activity with anyone under the age of 16, it is claimed that is not reflected in compensation decisions and that payment rules are being interpreted to suggest children can consent to their abuse."

The PCC is giving her backing to a coalition of organisations including Rape Crisis and Barnardos who have written to the Justice Secretary David Lidington calling for the rules to be changed.

She added "We're talking about groomed and abused children here and it's ludicrous to suggest that they have in any way complied through choice. The reality is that they have complied through fear, as a way of coping or as a result of limited understanding. Others are manipulated and brainwashed into believing their abuser loves them.

"The law quite clearly states that a person under 16 is in no position to give consent and it's alarming that this is being ignored by the CICA, resulting in children who have suffered these sickening crimes being denied compensation. While a monetary gesture can no way make up for what they have endured - it's the state's way of acknowledging the severity of their experience and its impact - it says 'you are believed'. Any suggestion of compliance by these children is a baffling form of victim blaming and we need to see an urgent law change to rectify this."

In a statement, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority said: