The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a body that was created by Government to award compensation to victims of violent and sexual crime. It is designed to help those that have suffered injuries and associated losses due to incidents that are not their fault.
Unfortunately that is just political talk.
My colleagues and I at Bolt Burdon Kemp are constantly battling against the CICA and their unreasonable decisions. I have previously written about their unfair decisions in respect of time limits and this article is designed to cover their reliance on the definition of “consent” and how this has resulted in the CICA currently rejecting my client’s claim for compensation.
My client (who wishes to be anonymous and shall be known as “Amy” for the purposes of this article) was 15 years old when her school teacher (who shall be known as Mr Taylor for the purposes of this article) first took a sexual interest in her. Mr Taylor was in his 30s at this time. In addition to being Amy’s science teacher, Mr Taylor also spent time with her outside school hours with exam revision and at the school’s gardening club.
Mr Taylor started spending more time with Amy and sending her Facebook messages. In the months that followed he gave Amy a number of gifts including a famous musician’s autograph and a number of pieces of jewellery. Amy found these gifts to be signs of affection and they made her feel special. However with hindsight it is clear that Mr Taylor had begun a process of grooming Amy.
Mr Taylor continued to send a number of lengthy Facebook messages which Amy reciprocated. These became sexually suggestive and led to late night Facebook and text message conversations on multiple occasions. This was in addition to the increasing amount of time that Amy and Mr Taylor were seeing each other during and after school.
Just before the school summer holidays, Mr Taylor and Amy kissed in school. Amy was so enthralled by the attention that Mr Taylor was devoting to her that she felt she was falling in love and that they were starting to form a “relationship”. This led to numerous occasions in the week leading up to the summer holidays where they kissed.
During the summer break, Mr Taylor and Amy agreed to meet at hotels so they could spend time together. As Amy was only 15 years old at the time and therefore had no financial resources, Mr Taylor covered the expense of these occasions. Mr Taylor also told Amy to keep their “relationship” a secret from her friends and family or they would be unable to see each other any longer. Amy dutifully complied as she did not want to lose Mr Taylor and feared that their “relationship” would end.
The sexual advances of Mr Taylor reached the point where one night they were both naked from the waist down and kissing in a hotel room. Mr Taylor then performed oral sex on Amy before continuing to kiss her. This was Amy’s first ever sexual experience.
During the following months, Mr Taylor and Amy discussed marriage and children. Amy was becoming increasingly interested in Mr Taylor and they both discussed renting a hotel room to have sex in the autumn half-term break to consummate their growing “relationship”.
One of Amy’s friends found out about Amy and Mr Taylor’s relationship and Amy’s parents were informed who disclosed this information to the police. Mr Taylor was tried and convicted of taking a child without lawful authority and sexual activity with a female child under 16 years old. He was sentenced to a substantial term in prison, was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register and he is barred from working with children indefinitely.
The fact that the criminal law holds Amy too young to consent to sexual acts has been ignored by the CICA. They deem she was a willing participant and in fact “consented” to the sexual acts noted above. As a result they hold she was not a “victim of a violent crime” and therefore not entitled to a compensation award.
The CICA seem unable to appreciate that a child like Amy could be groomed and manipulated to participate in sexual acts by their abuser. It is important to remember that Mr Taylor was in a position of authority and power in relation to Amy in addition to him being double her age and being substantially more sexually experienced. Mr Taylor clearly groomed Amy to make her feel as if they were in a “relationship” and that they had something special. As a result she did anything possible to please Mr Taylor and played the role of being his partner, something that is normal to see in incidents of child abuse.
Unfortunately Amy’s claim is not an isolated case and survivors are constantly facing this hurdle.
The CICA is a scheme that is funded by Government and it is well known that the Government is exercising stringent spending cuts to fight the state’s deficit. Unfortunately this means that many survivors do not receive the compensation they rightly deserve and this is something that I strongly disagree with. The Government states that they want to help victims of abuse but the actions of the CICA, as a Government body, clearly send out a different message. This leaves me to question – is the Government’s talk simply political propaganda?
The CICA deals with vulnerable people and it is common for survivors of sexual abuse to blame themselves for the abuse taking place. It is widely understood that manipulation is frequently psychological and not someone literally holding a gun to your head. This causes a substantial amount of confusion for victims as they struggle to come to terms with how the abuse happened and this leads to many survivors not disclosing their abuse for a substantial number of years.
After finally overcoming these mental hurdles, the CICA’s inconsiderate judgments often make survivors retreat into their protective shells. The proverb of going one step forward and then falling three steps back has never rung so true. All of this is a result of a Government funded scheme that was created to provide compensation to victims of violent and unlawful sexual acts. It often makes survivors feel as if they have been abused twice – once by their abuser and then again as a result of their treatment at the hands of the CICA and the Government. Our clients, and many others like them not only need, but deserve support to help them re-build their lives. One could argue that the very system that should have protected them, so often during their childhood, is failing them once again.