Being attacked or assaulted can be a matter for civil redress as well as the more usual criminal procedures as a victim of rape or abuse can suffer from serious psychological issues that can last a lifetime.
The psychological damage for victims can be life-changing and include depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, loss of confidence and self-esteem, flashbacks and avoidance, all of which can have very far-reaching effects into their relationships at home as well as in the workplace. In some cases, these psychological effects can require years of therapy and lead to loss of employment.
Reporting an incident is important, particularly for criminal proceedings as usually a police investigation precedes a prosecution. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) needs to assess the police evidence before deciding to prosecute.
An alternative to seeking redress via a criminal prosecution is to seek damages via a civil suit. There is a different burden of proof in civil claims because, whereas a criminal prosecution requires proof beyond reasonable doubt, a civil action only requires proof on the balance of probabilities – ie, it is more likely than not that the perpetrator committed the alleged assault. Proof on the balance of probabilities means more than 51% likelihood. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is accordingly much higher.
The remedy in a civil claim is compensation and this can be useful where the victim requires psychological treatment or has lost their job because of the psychological damage suffered. The drawback to the civil process is that the defendant may not necessarily have any means with which to satisfy any judgment against them but, where they do, they can be ordered to pay those damages within a short period of time. A charging order can also be made against the perpetrator’s house or even, in some circumstances, an order for sale can be made. Garnishee orders can be made so that payment of damages come straight out of the defendant’s pay on a periodic basis.
A claim against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority(CICA) is another option. This is a process where the victim of a crime can make a financial claim for injuries suffered and it is less adversarial than making a civil claim. The CICA makes awards of compensation and there is no concern about enforcing a judgment as there would be with a civil claim. However, before a claim can succeed there are requirements which include the need for the incident to have been reported to the police and for the person making the claim not have a criminal record themselves or to have provoked the incident in which they were injured. Also, claims must be made within two years of the attack or by a child’s 20th birthday if under 18 at the time.
In civil claims for abuse and sexual assault, the courts often allow claims to be made many years later in recognition that, due to the nature of the crime, many victims would not wish to come forward immediately.