In a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal has held that a CICA rule preventing certain victims of domestic and sexual abuse from claiming compensation is unlawful.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a government funded scheme that provides compensation to blameless victims of violent crimes. It is supposed to assist with the recovery of some of the most affected individuals in our society; yet until now, it has denied compensation to large numbers of abuse survivors on the basis of ‘the same roof rule’.
The ‘same roof rule’ denied applicants to CICA compensation awards if the assaults happened before 1 October 1979, and the applicant lived in the same house as their attacker ‘as members of the same family’.
This barred survivors of sexual abuse who had been assaulted by family members in their home before this date from obtaining CICA awards.
Lawyers and campaign groups representing abuse survivors have long argued that the ‘same roof rule’ draws an unfair distinction based on the identity of the perpetrator and the location that the abuse took place.
Today, the Court of Appeal agreed. The case concerned an abuse survivor who had been repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped when she was a child by her stepfather in her family home. She had been denied compensation from CICA as a result of the ‘same roof rule’.
In this case, the unfair operation of this rule was particularly stark: CICA had separately awarded compensation to another member of her family who had also been assaulted by the same perpetrator, but did not live in the same home as him.
In a unanimous judgment, the Court of Appeal held that the application of the ‘same roof rule’ – which has been in place since 1964 - was discriminatory and unlawful.
The Court highlighted that its operation went against the entire purpose of the CICA scheme: to compensate blameless victims of crimes, such as child abuse survivors.
This is an extremely welcome judgment from the Court of Appeal. CICA awards often provide abuse survivors with financial redress where there are no other means available. Denying CICA awards on the basis of the ‘same roof’ rule has already prevented too many survivors from obtaining compensation to access vital therapy and medical services.
Andrew Lord, solicitor in the Abuse Team at Leigh Day, said: ‘Today’s decision by the Court of Appeal finally removes the two-tier system that has denied CICA compensation to some survivors who were abused by family members in their own homes.
"We share the Court’s view that it is arbitrary and unfair to prevent such survivors from receiving a criminal injuries award, and look forward to the CICA scheme being updated promptly. We would also urge the CICA to allow applicants who have been denied compensation in the past on the basis of the ‘same roof rule’ to be able to re-apply to the scheme and receive the compensation they deserve’.