Trainee Legal Executive, Jasmine Butler, looks at the compensation available to victims of abuse

Abuse is unfortunately a stark reality for many people in Britain. Victims can be left feeling ashamed, vulnerable and too scared to confide in anyone. They are often left to carry the burden alone for the rest of their lives. Abuse in childhood undoubtedly creates psychological repercussions into adolescence and adulthood, with some victims going on to suffer from depression or alcohol and substance misuse. The availability of compensation for abuse victims is therefore crucial.

It is important that the compensation claim is made as soon as is practically possible. Claims which are brought promptly are generally less problematic than those which are older. Early action also avoids limitation issues arising which can sometimes prove fatal to a claim.

Victims of abuse are often confused by the court system, especially when they find themselves involved with not only the Criminal justice system, but the civil courts as well. Some people find the court process stressful, while others can be traumatised by having to give evidence in court, especially where this results in the Claimant feeling as though the abuse has been trivialised or questioned. You may have recently read about the criminal trial in which the prosecution barrister branded a 13 year old victim of abuse as a “sexual predator”. Those sort of remarks are unhelpful and serve to make life even more difficult for the innocent victims.

When a claim for compensation is made we normally pursue this through the civil courts. However, although claims for compensation (known as damages) are usually pursued through the County Court, an application can be made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority scheme (CICA). This is a publicly funded scheme that compensates injured victims of crime, including sexual or violent abuse. It is possible for a claim to be made in the county court in parallel to a CICA claim.

So, how is a decision on the level of compensation reached? All of the circumstances of the case will be taken into account It will usually be necessary to obtain a psychiatric report or some other medical report outlining the physical and psychological effect that the abuse has had upon the Claimant, along with evidence of any out-of-pocket losses suffered as a result of the abuse including loss of earnings and the cost of any private medical treatment.

A leading case in sexual abuse claims is that of AB & Others v Nugent Care Society (2009) a case in which the Claimants sustained horrific abuse in 1969/70 whilst in the care of the local authority, culminating in the victims suffering complex mental illnesses. This case is now frequently used by Courts as a guide to the amount that should be awarded to Claimants in sexual abuse claims either at trial or if the claim settles beforehand by negotiation.

Receiving an award of compensation may enable the Claimant to start to slowly rebuild their life and find some form of closure, which is why it is so important that a fair award of damages is achieved.

If you would like to know more about claiming child abuse compensation, or you need more information about the issues discussed in this article then please call our FREE ABUSE HELPLINE freephone 0808 139 1597  to speak in total confidence to one of our team of specialist abuse lawyers.

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