Call for compensation scheme extension to help more abuse survivors

APIL is calling for victims of child sex crimes, such as online grooming and online child sexual abuse, to be eligible for damages from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS).

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has set out its views in response to a Ministry of Justice consultation looking at possible changes to the scope and time limits for claims to the CICS. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has recommended online child sexual abuse be something that victims and survivors of abuse can claim for through the CICS.

“Widening the scope would ensure the survivors of serious offences like online grooming and child sexual abuse that occurs online can turn to the scheme to help them get their lives back on track,” said Kim Harrison, vice president of APIL.

“To qualify currently, the crime must involve physical violence, but the focus should be on whether the crime caused harm. We would like to see the word ‘violence’ removed from the definition of a qualifying crime.

“A crime does not have to be physically violent for it to upturn the life of a survivor. Online grooming, manipulation, coercive control and sexual abuse online in child sexual abuse cases cause deep and lasting harm,” she said.

APIL supports proposals to increase the timeframes for applicants to submit a claim. The IICSA recommended the timeframe for bringing an application should either be seven years from the date the abuse was reported to the police, or, where the crime was reported to the police while the victim was still a child, seven years from when the victim turned 18, with a discretion to allow the case to proceed out of time at the discretion of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

“Survivors of child sex abuse often do not come forward quickly to report what happened to them for many valid reasons, including fear and shame. And many do not even realise until much later in life that what happened to them as a child was a crime, or that a route to redress even exists,” said Ms Harrison.

“There is a need to increase awareness of the CICS within the criminal justice system. There is also the problem that with the current backlogs and delays in the criminal justice system many sexual abuse cases are taking more than two years – the current CICA time limit – to go to trial. This isn’t fair on victims of crime who through no fault of their own are missing out on making a claim.”

“Victims of non-sexual crimes should have the same three-year limitation period as other personal injury claimants. But in any event, CICS claims handlers should have the discretionary powers to allow applications after the time limits,” she went on.