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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Final report

I.5: Financial redress

29. Victims and survivors are entirely justified in seeking financial redress. No amount of money can fully compensate a victim for child sexual abuse that they experienced. It can, however, provide some reparation for the abuse and its consequences and help victims and survivors to gain access to valuable support and therapy.

30. In criminal proceedings, victims and survivors may be cross-examined about any compensation claims they have made and whether they are “lying for money”.[1] These characterisations are misplaced, offensive and are unsupported by the rare instances in which false allegations have been made. It is notable that in the context of the civil justice system, a number of claimant representatives and defendant representatives acknowledged that fraudulent child sexual abuse claims were exceptional.[2] As one insurer put it, “there are very, very few” such cases.[3]

31. Financial redress may be obtained directly from institutions, although this depends on the approach taken by the individual institutions themselves or their insurers. Redress can include ex gratia payments (payments made even where there is no obligation or liability to pay it) and payments made under redress schemes.[4] There have been several examples of institutions, both within the Inquiry’s investigations and outside of them, setting up such schemes in recent years.

31.1. In 2018, Lambeth Council set up a redress scheme for victims and survivors abused in care.[5]

31.2. In April 2020, the Church of England announced that it intended to set up a redress scheme.[6] Following some initial delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work on setting up this scheme was still ongoing as at June 2022.[7] In the meantime, in September 2020, it set up an interim support scheme to “give immediate help and support to survivors of Church related abuse”.[8] As at December 2021, 60 victims had approached the interim scheme and 40 had received an offer of assistance.[9]

31.3. In 2021, Islington Council set up a support payment scheme for people who experienced abuse (including sexual, physical and emotional abuse) in its children’s homes.[10]

A proactive approach is welcome, so that victims and survivors are not always forced to seek compensation by other means.

32. Victims and survivors seeking redress from institutions often have to rely on bringing civil claims. The civil justice system can provide compensation for child sexual abuse. As set out in Part G, many victims and survivors bringing a civil claim can be re-traumatised by this process and there can be a number of legal hurdles to overcome. Where victims and survivors are unable to pursue civil claims successfully, they may be able to obtain some financial redress from the State through a compensation scheme.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

33. Victims of ‘violent crime’ in England and Wales (as well as Scotland) may be awarded compensation under the publicly funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (the Scheme). Any injury must have been sustained on or after 1 August 1964, the date on which the Scheme was first introduced.[11] Awards under the Scheme may be made to victims whether or not there has been a successful criminal conviction. All incidents upon which an application is based, however, must have been reported to the police.[12]

34. This Scheme was established by the government and administered at that time by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Bureau (CICB).[13] Under this Scheme compensation was assessed on the basis of common law damages, which is in line with civil claim awards.[14] The Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995 created the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and a new, tariff-based statutory scheme. The new Scheme was introduced in 1996 and has since been updated in 2001, 2008 and 2012, and amended in 2019.[15]

35. The Scheme is considered by the government to be an option of ‘last resort’ for those who cannot obtain compensation elsewhere and is not intended to fully compensate victims for the injuries suffered.[16] Victims are “encouraged to explore other means of redress in the first instance, such as a civil claim, which may provide for higher amounts of compensation”.[17]

36. A successful application may provide some acknowledgement to victims and survivors. The government’s guide to the Scheme states that while “no amount of compensation can ever make up for the harm and suffering caused to victims by violent crime … awards are intended to be an acknowledgement of harm and an important gesture of public sympathy”.[18] One applicant, whose application was initially rejected but on review was accepted, stated that he did not care how much the award was. He was happy to finally be believed.[19]

37. Victims and survivors may be unaware of the availability of financial redress under the Scheme.[20] The CICA works with various victims’ organisations to help promote the Scheme and educate them about it so that they can help victims and survivors.[21]

38. Signposting to the Scheme by the police, on which victims and survivors often rely, has not always been consistent and the police have sometimes encouraged victims and survivors to wait until the conclusion of criminal proceedings.[22] As with civil claims, this has been due, at least in part, to concerns that criminal proceedings might be undermined by accusations that victims and survivors have fabricated allegations to obtain compensation.[23] In 2013, the College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice introduced guidance which made clear that applications to the CICA should not be delayed until the conclusion of a criminal investigation or trial.[24] The same year, the Ministry of Justice also published a leaflet entitled Information for Victims of Crime for use by police forces in the delivery of entitlements under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales (Victims’ Code).[25] Nevertheless, despite some improvement by a number of police forces, there may still be concern among police officers that the issue of compensation may be used to undermine a victim’s credibility at any criminal trial.[26]

39. The Victims’ Code previously made clear that victims and survivors are entitled to apply for awards from the CICA, and provided information on how to do so.[27] However, awareness of the Victims’ Code itself has been “pretty low” and so it is not clear that the Code has improved knowledge of the CICA Scheme amongst victims and survivors.[28] The government has stated that the revised Code “has been restructured so that victims are the primary audience”.[29]

40. Since the Inquiry made its previous recommendations in relation to the Victims’ Code, the College of Policing’s guidance makes clear that police officers are required to provide victims and survivors with information on their rights and entitlements under the Code.[30] However, as set out in Part G, there are still concerns about compliance with the Code.

41. There are also several eligibility criteria which may have had an unfair impact on victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. Some victims and survivors of child sexual abuse may find the application process difficult and public funding is not generally available to assist applicants.[31] Assistance may be available from solicitors (who will ordinarily enter into a conditional fee agreement with applicants and only be paid if an award is made), charitable organisations, the police or local independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs).[32]

42. The Interim Report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (the Interim Report, April 2018) and the Accountability and Reparations Investigation Report (September 2019) made several recommendations to improve access to the Scheme for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

43. Between the publication of those reports, in September 2018, the government announced a review of the Scheme “to ensure it reflects the changing nature of crime and can better support victims, especially of historic and current child abuse”. It also stated that this would allow it to take full account of the recommendations made in the Inquiry’s Interim Report.[33] The Criminal Injuries Compensation Review 2020 consultation document was published in July 2020 and concluded that the Scheme was “working well for the majority of victims of child sexual abuse”.[34] Aside from inviting views on increasing awards for mental injury for victims of sexual offences including children and the CICA’s approach to the language relating to consent, the review did not identify any major child abuse-related issues requiring further consultation and reform.[35] The government received 96 responses to its consultation document and states that it will finalise its review once its supplementary consultation on the unspent convictions rule has concluded (discussed below).[36]

The ‘same roof’ rule recommendation

44. The ‘same roof’ rule prevented applicants who were abused before 1 October 1979 from receiving compensation where they were living under the same roof as their assailant. Its purpose was to stop assailants from benefiting from awards (for example, if they were a parent of the abused child).[37] Following the Inquiry’s recommendation that the rules be revised so that applicants who previously applied for compensation in relation to child sexual abuse but were refused solely due to this rule should be entitled to reapply, the ‘same roof’ rule was abolished in relation to children in June 2019.[38]

Training recommendation

45. Applications relating to child sexual abuse can raise complex issues which require careful consideration and sensitive decision-making. As set out in its Interim Report in April 2018, the Inquiry welcomed the steps the CICA was taking to increase the knowledge and understanding of its staff in relation to such applications. However, it was not appropriate for applications relating to child sexual abuse to be handled by the general pool of CICA caseworkers.[39] The Inquiry therefore recommended that claims relating to child sexual abuse should only be considered by those who have specific and detailed training in its nature and impact.[40]

46. In its December 2018 response, the government emphasised that all CICA operational staff were given training related to child sexual abuse. It stated that the CICA provided a dedicated caseworker to applicants in particularly complex and difficult cases. It also set out examples of work undertaken with external stakeholders and victims’ groups.[41]

47. In its Criminal Injuries Compensation Review 2020, the government again highlighted a number of initiatives which had taken place since the Inquiry’s Interim Report. It stated that the CICA had:

engaged with organisations including Samaritans, Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland to provide specialist trauma informed training to ensure that staff are better equipped to deal sensitively with those who have lived through traumatic periods of abuse, including victims of grooming and exploitation”.[42]

It also noted that the CICA had been proactively reviewing its training and guidance. This, it said, had contributed to “improvements in the way staff understand and deal with changing trends in violent crime such as increased recognition of grooming in sexual crime and the application of exceptional circumstances” where applications are made outside of the time limits in the Scheme.[43] It stated that named caseworkers were being provided to victims affected by the change in the ‘same roof’ rule and other complex or difficult cases and that it was exploring how named caseworkers might be extended to other applicant groups in the future.[44]

48. Regardless of whether ‘named’ or ‘dedicated’ caseworkers deal with applications related to child sexual abuse, all caseworkers handling such applications must have the specific and detailed training required.

Unspent criminal convictions recommendation

49. Under the 2012 Scheme, no award is made to applicants who have unspent criminal convictions for offences that resulted in certain sentences (discussed further below). The Inquiry considered this unfair and so recommended that the Ministry of Justice revise the CICA rules, so that awards are not automatically rejected in circumstances where an applicant’s criminal convictions are likely to be linked to their child sexual abuse and that each case should be considered on its merits.[45] This recommendation was rejected, which is considered in more detail later.

Assistance recommendation

50. In its Accountability and Reparations Investigation Report (September 2019), the Inquiry recommended revision of the Victims’ Code to make clear that victims and survivors must be advised by the police that they are entitled to assistance (from ISVAs or other suitable persons) completing any application, should they require it.[46]

51. The revised Victims’ Code (November 2020) makes clear that victims and survivors have the right to be told by the police how to apply for compensation through the Scheme. However, it does not state that victims and survivors are entitled to assistance completing an application from ISVAs or other suitable persons.[47] Instead, Home Office guidance highlights that ISVAs should ensure that victims have access to independent advice and guidance and that they can assist in making an application if their client is eligible.[48]

Further changes

52. Despite these changes, concerns about the Scheme remain. The Inquiry therefore recommends further changes in relation to the focus on crimes of violence, the provisions relating to ‘unspent convictions’ and the time limits for applications to the Scheme.

Recommendation 18: Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

The Inquiry recommends that the UK government amends the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme to:

  • include other forms of child sexual abuse, including online-facilitated sexual abuse;
  • amend the rule on unspent convictions so that applicants with unspent convictions are not automatically excluded where offences are likely to be linked to the circumstances of their sexual abuse as a child; and
  • increase the time limit for child sexual abuse applications so that applicants have seven years to apply from (a) the date the offence was reported to the police or (b) the age of 18, where the offence was reported whilst the victim was a child. In either circumstance, the claims officer’s discretion to extend the time limit remains.

A ‘crime of violence’

53. A person can only apply for an award “if they sustain a criminal injury which is directly attributable to their being a direct victim of a crime of violence”.[49] The Scheme defines ‘crime of violence’ as one which involves:

  • a physical attack;
  • any other act or omission of a violent nature which causes physical injury to a person;
  • a threat against a person, causing fear of immediate violence in circumstances which would cause a person of reasonable firmness to be put in such fear;
  • a sexual assault to which a person did not in fact consent; or
  • arson or fire-raising.[50]

54. In 2017, the CICA’s internal guidance for decision-makers in applying the criterion relating to sexual assault and consent was revised.[51] As the revised guidance makes clear, “where the applicant was 15 or under when the incident happened, we will presume that they did not consent unless the evidence to the contrary is very clear”.[52] In addition, it states that “Normally, where … criminal offences have been committed, the child will be the victim of a crime of violence”.[53] Where applications involve children under 16 and issues relating to consent, the application must be referred to “Legal and Policy” staff for advice.[54]

55. The continued focus on ‘crime of violence’ fails to take into account that child sexual abuse, particularly online sexual abuse, may occur without physical contact. It also does not take account of the extent of the harm and damage that can be caused by different forms of non-contact child sexual abuse (such as the ongoing fear that images of sexual abuse remain available online). For some victims and survivors, the Scheme may be the only realistic route to access compensation for the harm caused. The Internet Investigation Report (dated March 2020) made clear that the government needed to ensure that the CICA Scheme was fit for the internet age and the fact that online-facilitated abuse is often a feature of sexual offending against children.[55]

56. The government’s 2020 review of the Scheme “considered whether the current definition of a crime of violence for the purposes of the Scheme reflects the changing nature of violent crime”. It noted concerns that the Scheme fails to provide compensation for serious non-contact offences (examples provided include grooming, online exploitation, coercive control, stalking and modern slavery) which have increased in prevalence.[56] The review stated that, based on the available data, “there has not been a significant change in the nature of violent crime” since the Scheme was last reviewed in 2012.[57] It also considered that “widening the definition beyond crimes that are violent in nature and involve touching and physical contact or threat of immediate violence would mean going far beyond the original intention of the Scheme”.[58] The government’s view was that the current definition is “broad enough to allow for a wide range of circumstances, including in certain cases, online exploitation, grooming, stalking and modern slavery where situations have escalated into ones involving violence or the immediate threat of violence”. It acknowledged that victims of crimes not involving the threat of, or actual violence may also experience psychological and emotional harm and trauma, but that those impacts can also be experienced by victims of other types of crime, such as fraud and dishonesty.[59]

57. For the purposes of the Scheme, a recent court ruling decided that a ‘crime of violence’ does not include online grooming where there is no fear of “unlawful and immediate violence”.[60] The court also stated that “Criminal conduct online or via text messaging may have a devastating impact on the lives of those affected, both during and after the events themselves”, but made clear that its inclusion within the Scheme is a matter for Parliament.[61]

58. Technological advances have radically changed the means by which child sexual abuse can be facilitated. As a result, focussing on crimes involving violence is outdated. So too is reliance on what may have been in contemplation at the time the Scheme was first introduced in 1964. The Scheme should reflect the nature of crimes being committed today. The Inquiry also does not accept that the profound psychological impact of child sexual abuse can be compared with that of non-violent crimes such as fraud and dishonesty. The Inquiry therefore recommends that the Ministry of Justice change the Scheme to include other forms of child sexual abuse, including online-facilitated abuse.

‘Unspent’ convictions

59. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, eligible criminal convictions or cautions become ‘spent’ after a specified period of time, known as the ‘rehabilitation period’.[62] Where a conviction is ‘spent’, the offender is regarded as rehabilitated, that is to say as if he or she had never committed an offence. As such, they are not obliged to declare their caution or conviction, for example, when applying for employment or insurance.[63] ‘Unspent’ criminal convictions are those which have not yet reached the specified time in order to become ‘spent’.

60. Prior to the 2012 Scheme, there was discretion to make a full or reduced award to applicants who had unspent criminal convictions.[64] This discretion was removed in the 2012 Scheme, based on government policy that people who have themselves committed crimes should not benefit from a publicly funded scheme.[65]

61. The 2012 Scheme introduced an exclusionary rule, under which no award is made to applicants who have unspent criminal convictions for offences that resulted in certain sentences or orders, including custodial sentences, community orders and youth rehabilitation orders. Where sentences other than those specified have been imposed, a discretion may be exercised to withhold or reduce awards, where there are “exceptional reasons”.[66] These changes were introduced by the government notwithstanding that the majority of respondents to the consultation on this issue argued that claims officers should continue to be able to exercise discretion and judge every individual case on its merits.[67]

62. As set out above, the Inquiry previously recommended that the rule should be revised so that awards are not automatically rejected in circumstances where applicants’ criminal convictions are likely to be linked to their sexual abuse as children.[68] Subsequently, Melissa Case, Director of Criminal and Family Justice Policy at the Ministry of Justice, stated that “very powerful evidence” about the link between sexual abuse and criminal offending had been put before the Inquiry, which would be looked at under the government’s review.[69]

63. The government’s review considered the Inquiry’s recommendation but stated that, when deciding eligibility for compensation, the intention of the existing rule was to “reflect the degree of harm done to others and the cost to society of offending behaviour”. The review stated that any change was likely to introduce additional complexity to the Scheme and increase the time it takes for the CICA to make a decision on eligibility. It also stated that it was relevant that “all individuals with unspent convictions will have been found guilty of a crime, and are likely to have had particular circumstances of their vulnerability presented in mitigation and taken into account during sentencing”.[70]

64. The government declined to make (or consult on) any change, stating that to do so would undermine the core principles of the Scheme and introduce “significant potential discrimination and operational challenge”.[71] However, in 2021, a victim of child sexual abuse brought a successful legal challenge to the government’s decision not to consult on the issue in its review. As a result, the High Court ordered that the government was:

required to carry out a public consultation on whether the unspent convictions rule … should be revised so that applications are not automatically rejected in circumstances where an applicant’s criminal convictions are likely to be linked to their sexual abuse as a child.[72]

65. In June 2022, the government published a supplementary consultation on the unspent convictions rule. This discussed a number of options for reform, including the reform previously recommended by the Inquiry.[73] The Inquiry’s view remains that the current rule fails to recognise the impact of child sexual abuse and, specifically, that abuse may have directly contributed to instances of offending.[74] In particular, there is often a close link between sexual exploitation, grooming and criminal behaviour. The Inquiry heard evidence of child victims of exploitation being charged with or convicted of criminal offences which were closely linked with their sexual exploitation.[75] In one example, a child was arrested on a number of occasions for offences such as being drunk and disorderly and assault, which she said were committed in the context of her being sexually exploited by a group of men. When she appeared at the youth court, aged 15, her solicitor tried to explain the abuse she was experiencing, but no investigation was conducted. She was sentenced to four months in a young offender institution.[76] Under current rules, this conviction would not be spent until 18 months after the sentence had been completed.[77]

66. The Inquiry acknowledges that, given the complexity of applicants’ personal histories, the link between the offence and sexual abuse or exploitation will not always be easy to identify. Caseworkers should be provided with the discretion to consider the circumstances in order that applicants are not unfairly excluded. The Inquiry therefore recommends that the Ministry of Justice amend the rules on unspent convictions so that applications are not automatically rejected in circumstances where an applicant’s criminal convictions are likely to be linked to their sexual abuse as a child.

67. Sammy Woodhouse, a survivor of child exploitation in Rotherham, has been campaigning for the introduction of ‘Sammy’s law’, which would see victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation have crimes associated with their grooming wiped from their criminal records.[78] In November 2021, the Independent Office for Police Conduct released a report which included a recommendation that the Law Commission review the “laws surrounding offences committed by young people who are being groomed or exploited”.[79] The Law Commission accepted the recommendation as a formal submission to its 14th programme and stated it would be analysing it alongside other proposals for law reform projects.[80]

Time limits

68. Since 1996, CICA applications generally have had to be made within two years of the incident of sexual abuse. In earlier versions of the Scheme (as with the current iteration), a claims officer could waive this time limit, although the precise nature of the discretion varied.[81]

69. Under the 2012 Scheme, separate provision is made for applicants under the age of 18 at the time that the abuse occurred.

69.1. In the case of abuse reported to the police when the applicant is a child, a claim can be made up until the day of the applicant’s 20th birthday.[82]

69.2. In the case of abuse reported to the police when the applicant is an adult, a claim can be made within two years from the first report of the abuse to the police.[83]

70. In either case, applications will only be accepted if the claims officer is satisfied that the application can be determined “without further extensive enquiries”. This is not defined in the Scheme or the current publicly available guidance.[84] Evidence provided by the CICA explains that factors for consideration include: the number of enquiries that are likely to be needed; the length of time and amount it will cost to make the enquiries; the complexity of the enquiries; and the length of time between the incident and the application.[85] The time limits can be extended where the claims officer is satisfied that due to exceptional circumstances the applicant could not have applied earlier and (as with these provisions generally) the applications can be determined without further extensive enquiries.[86]

71. In 2018, the CICA informed the Inquiry that its ‘staff’ guide on the meaning of ‘exceptional circumstances’ had been “updated to include specific provision for historical sexual abuse victims”. The guide advised staff that “exceptional circumstances” were more likely to exist in such cases, especially where the applicant was a child at the time of the offence. The guide also advised staff to accept that, in cases involving historical sexual abuse in which the applicant did not apply until criminal proceedings concluded, ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist, unless they considered there are compelling reasons not to do so.[87]

72. The government’s 2020 review stated that concerns had been raised about the two-year time limit given that “some victims lack awareness regarding the Scheme” and it had heard “anecdotal evidence of victims being advised by police or prosecutors to wait until the conclusion of a criminal case to avoid being accused of making allegations for profit”. It also noted views that the impact of trauma on victims and survivors of child sexual abuse may necessitate “a more generous time limit” and that the current time limits are “perceived” to have a negative impact on certain groups of victims, including victims of child sexual abuse.[88] However, it concluded that the CICA caseload data show that “the proportion of claims refused on the grounds of being ‘out of time’ was small when compared to refusals on other grounds” and that there was “no apparent disproportionate impact on those claiming for sexual assault”. The review stated that the ‘exceptional circumstances’ criteria time limit and the time limit for applicants who were children at the time of the crime appear “to be working well”. The government’s view was that it is important for the Scheme to operate a time limit and that the two-year time limit allows sufficient time for most victims to make an application.[89]

73. The review does not make clear how many of the successful applicants had been initially rejected as being out of time and were only successful after requesting a review or going through the appeal process. One attendee at the Inquiry’s Criminal Compensation Seminar stated that he expected “virtually every client to be refused on the first application”.[90] Attendees also stated that it is really difficult to overcome the hurdle of ‘exceptional circumstances’ without specialist legal advice.[91] The review also does not consider the extent to which the time limit may act as a deterrent to potential applicants, another point raised in the Inquiry’s seminar.[92]

74. The review’s statement that there was “no apparent disproportionate impact on those claiming for sexual assault” fails to acknowledge that the current time limits are inappropriate for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. Many victims and survivors feel unable to report that they were sexually abused when they were children. Although the time limit starts to run from the date of report to the police (unlike in civil claims), and guidance on ‘exceptional circumstances’ has been updated, the period of two years is inadequate for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

74.1. Victims and survivors have not always been informed by the police of their entitlement to apply to the Scheme or have sometimes been encouraged by the police to wait until the conclusion of a criminal investigation or trial.[93]

74.2. The two-year rule also assumes that victims and survivors are prepared and able to undertake a compensation process, sometimes at the same time as preparing for or appearing in criminal proceedings.

74.3. It may be particularly difficult for a victim and survivor to apply before their 20th birthday where the abuse was reported when they were a child.

75. The Inquiry therefore recommends that the Ministry of Justice increases the time limit for child sexual abuse applications so that applicants have seven years to apply:

  • from the date the offence was reported to the police; or
  • from the age of 18, where the offence was reported whilst the victim was a child; and
  • in either circumstance, the claims officer retains the discretion to extend the time limit further.

76. The Inquiry acknowledges that any period of time may appear arbitrary to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. Other options have been considered, in particular whether or not to recommend that the two-year time limit should run from the conclusion of criminal proceedings, rather than the report to the police. However, given that not all reports are pursued in the criminal courts, this would lead to a difference in treatment of applicants depending on whether reports led to criminal proceedings. In addition, it may be difficult to define what was meant by ‘the conclusion of criminal proceedings’. The Inquiry considers that extending the time limit to seven years is more appropriate.

77. This does not mean that victims and survivors should be discouraged from applying to the CICA until after the conclusion of a criminal investigation or trial. In its review, the government also stated that it:

will continue to explore what more can be done with criminal justice agencies to raise awareness of the Scheme, and in particular to ensure a robust response where compensation claims are raised in the context of criminal proceedings”.[94]


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