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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Accountability and Reparations Investigation Report

G.1: Conclusions

1. Accountability and reparations for child sexual abuse takes many different forms – including punishing offenders, holding institutions to account, acknowledging abuse and providing apologies, explanations and assurances of non-recurrence, redress (including financial compensation) and support.

2. None of the systems under examination in this investigation – civil justice, criminal compensation or support services – is designed to deliver all of these objectives. However, the operation of those systems could be improved so that they become more effective at delivering accountability and reparations for victims and survivors.[1]

Conclusions in respect of signposting compensation

3. The Victims’ Code is intended to set out the services to be provided to victims of crime. The Code raises awareness of the entitlement to apply for awards from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). But it does not signpost the rights of victims and survivors to bring claims for compensation in the civil courts. Nor does it signpost the possibility that they may receive financial compensation in the form of a criminal compensation order (CCO) by the criminal courts.

4. The Inquiry has previously heard from victims and survivors that they had not consistently received the level of service they were entitled to under the Victims’ Code.[2] In its Interim Report, dated April 2018, the Inquiry recommended that the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Attorney General’s Office commission a joint inspection of compliance with the Victims’ Code in relation to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. It also recommended that the Victims’ Commissioner be consulted on this work.[3]

5. In December 2018, the government published its response to the Inquiry’s recommendation. The response noted that it will discuss the possibility of a joint inspection with the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection (CJJI)[4] once its work to ensure compliance with the Victims’ Code has formally commenced later in 2019.[5] According to the government’s latest progress update, published in July 2019, a draft compliance framework based on five of the entitlements contained in the Code is now in place at a local level. The first report on this framework will be ready in early 2020.[6]

6. Nevertheless, we remain concerned that the Inquiry continues to see evidence of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse not receiving their entitlements under the Victims’ Code. We will therefore want to see the extent to which the new framework implemented by the government addresses our concerns.

7. In the meantime, we consider that the Code requires revision to ensure that victims and survivors are made fully aware of their rights to compensation within the civil and criminal justice systems. It is important that victims and survivors do not lose the opportunity to initiate civil claims or make CICA applications whilst criminal investigations and prosecutions are ongoing. Police forces need to be consistent and proactive in the way that they signpost these entitlements. Normalising the expectation that they will provide this signposting will also negate the risk that criminal trials are compromised by allegations that victims and survivors have fabricated allegations to obtain compensation.

Conclusions in respect of the civil justice system

8. The civil justice system is governed by laws and procedures that apply to all claimants and defendants. Some of its practices – such as the adversarial trial process – are essential components of our system of justice. So too is the law of limitation, which we heard operates unfairly in the context of child sexual abuse litigation, and which we intend to consider further in the next phase of our work (see below).[7]

9. Individual and institutional defendants have the right to defend themselves in accordance with these laws and procedures. However, there is a compelling need for claims by victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to be treated differently from other forms of personal injury litigation.

10. The effects of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors can be lifelong and devastating. Defendants, including local authorities and insurers, must take this into account when responding to civil claims, together with the fact that claimants may struggle to disclose details of their abuse and to initiate and engage with the process of litigation. Claimants should be treated with sensitivity and defendants should recognise that the provision of explanations, apologies, reassurance and access to specialist therapy and support may be as important (or more important) to them than the receipt of financial compensation.

11. Defendant institutions must be able to make apologies, offers of treatment and other redress to victims of child sexual abuse, without undermining their ability to defend civil claims. The Compensation Act 2006 is intended to facilitate this but cannot do so if defendant insurers consider that its wording may not apply to claims involving allegations of vicarious liability for the actions of individual abusers.

12. Victims and survivors should not have their claims prolonged or undermined by not knowing if the defendants have public liability insurance in place to pay for successful claims. In the Inquiry’s Interim Report, we recommended that the Association of British Insurers (ABI) consider whether a register could be introduced to assist claimants in this respect. The ABI formally responded to this recommendation in April 2019, raising a number of questions about the merits of such a register and the challenges that may be faced by its introduction. Having heard the evidence in the case studies, we are satisfied that the benefits of a register for victims and survivors outweigh any potential difficulties it may cause.

13. The quantification of awards of compensation for claims of child sexual abuse is a matter for the courts. However, the general damages that claimants receive must more fully reflect the physical, emotional and psychiatric injuries that they have suffered, together with the impact on their long-term quality of life, including on relationships and their ability to work. The Judicial College is best placed to provide guidance on these matters for the courts and it needs to revise its Guidelines accordingly.

14. In its Interim Report, the Inquiry recommended that the Ministry of Justice provide in primary legislation that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in civil court cases, where they are claiming compensation in relation to the abuse they suffered, are afforded the same protections as vulnerable witnesses in criminal court cases. In addition, we recommended that the Civil Procedure Rules be amended to ensure that judges presiding over cases relating to child sexual abuse consider the use of these protections.[8]

15. In its responses, the government confirmed that a subcommittee of the Civil Justice Council (CJC) has drafted a consultation document to share with members of the CJC and will produce a final report in autumn 2019. It has also stated that the Ministry of Justice will liaise with the Civil Procedure Rule Committee to explore whether any other provision about protections is appropriate.[9]

16. The practice during civil litigation of claimants having their psychiatric, psychological and physical injuries assessed by two or more medical experts – their own and defendants’ – can cause unnecessary distress to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and may worsen rather than resolve the disputes between the parties. This could be avoided if it were the norm rather than the exception that single experts were jointly instructed by claimants and defendants in such cases.

Conclusions in respect of criminal compensation

17. CCOs are a valuable form of reparation. However, they are not being made in sufficient numbers following successful prosecutions for child sexual abuse. The precise reasons for this are unclear from the case studies, not least because many of the events under consideration occurred many years ago, and many perpetrators received long prison sentences. Further investigation of the present position by the Ministry of Justice is required so that the use of CCOs can be improved.

18. The Ministry of Justice is presently conducting a full review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.[10] The Inquiry welcomes this review, during which we expect consideration to be given to:

  • the Inquiry’s finding in its Interim Report that the current CICA rules fail to recognise the impact of child sexual abuse and, specifically, that abuse may have directly contributed to instances of offending[11] and
  • the Inquiry’s recommendation that the Ministry of Justice revise the rules 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.[12]

19. In the Interim Report, we also welcomed the steps that the CICA has taken to increase the knowledge and understanding of its staff in relation to child sexual abuse, but recommended that more should be done. We raised concerns that applications for compensation relating to child sexual abuse are handled by the general pool of CICA caseworkers. The Inquiry recommended that the CICA ensures that claims relating to child sexual abuse are only considered by caseworkers who have specific and detailed training in the nature and impact of child sexual abuse.[13] In its response, the government stated that all CICA operational staff are given training on child sexual abuse cases, and caseworkers are given specific training on handling child sexual abuse cases.[14]

Conclusions in respect of support

20. Support and therapy are a vital form of reparation for victims and survivors. Within the civil justice system, the Rehabilitation Code is designed to assist personal injury claimants to access the help that they need. A new code is needed, or a revision of the existing Rehabilitation Code, to ensure that this also happens for victims and survivors who are bringing claims of child sexual abuse.

21. In November 2017, the Inquiry held a two-day seminar to explore how institutions in the criminal justice system respond to child sexual abuse.[15] We heard directly from victims and survivors that they had not consistently received the level of service they were entitled to under the Victims’ Code. As noted above, in its response to the Inquiry’s Interim Report, the government stated that it will discuss the possibility of a joint inspection with the CJJI once its work to ensure compliance with the Victims’ Code has formally commenced later in 2019.[16]

22. One of the entitlements in the Victims’ Code that must be improved in its implementation is the signposting of support services. Specialist support services for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse vary according to where they live. The police should be aware of what is available in their local area and should take responsibility for ensuring that those services are clearly signposted.

References

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