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Fight to secure justice and compensation for historic sex abuse victims

21 May 2014 @TeesUniNews

 

Teesside University’s Law Clinic has launched a landmark legal challenge to prevent those who suffered historic sex abuse at the hands of a family member missing out on compensation.

With the launch of Operation Yewtree and the number of high profile prosecutions, more and more victims of historic sexual abuse are finding the courage to come forward.

But many victims are being denied their rightful compensation due to a legal loophole.

Now Teesside Law Clinic, a student-run legal advice clinic at Teesside University, has launched a legal challenge on behalf of its client to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in a bid to secure fair pay-outs for historic sex abuse victims.

Under the current scheme, compensation is not paid if the criminal injury was sustained before 1 October 1979 and, at the time of the incident, the victim and the perpetrator were living together as members of the same family.

Andrew Perriman, Senior Lecturer in Law at Teesside University who runs Teesside Law Clinic, said what this effectively means is that if you suffered sexual abuse prior to this date and you lived under the same roof as the perpetrator, you are not entitled to compensation. However, if you were sexually abused just one day after 1 October 1979, you might be.

'This policy has a recognisable unfairness in that, if the person was a child at the time, the scheme makes a presumption that it is easy for a child to leave the family home to avoid the abuse - clearly that was not the case,' explained Andrew.

The client, who is being represented by Teesside Law Clinic and cannot be named for legal reasons, was sexually assaulted and raped by her stepfather who was subsequently jailed for 11 and a half years. She is 'outraged' that she cannot claim compensation because the offences happened before October 1979 and she lived under the same roof as her abuser.

Speaking anonymously she said: 'It's not fair to discriminate like this. My case is not about the money, it is about the principle, because this is wrong.

'I am sick of being told, over 30 years, that I'm not worth anything.'

Teesside Law Clinic is arguing that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is discriminatory on the grounds of age and it treats those born prior to 1 October 1979 less favourably than those born after that date.

Andrew said that one of the main purposes of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is to prevent the assailant from benefitting from any compensation awarded.

He added: 'In cases of historical family abuse, many victims want nothing further to do with the perpetrator and therefore the compensation would not benefit them in any way. Furthermore, as has been seen recently, the ties are severed by virtue of the fact that victims are coming forward to report these cases now and the perpetrators are receiving long prison sentences.'

Third year Law students work in Teesside Law Clinic, based in the School of Social Sciences & Law, to give them practical experience of dealing with real cases, under the supervision of professionals.

The first hearing in this case has taken place and Andrew believes it could be the start of a long journey to secure justice and compensation for historic sex abuse victims.

'We believe we have found a legitimate opportunity to challenge the scheme. The students at the Law Clinic have invested a great deal of time in the case and it is something we all believe in.'


In the News

Legal action launched by victims of sex abuse
Evening Gazette, 28/05/14, P.7
Teesside University's law clinic has launched a landmark legal challenge to secure justice for historic sex abuse victims.


Compensation bid in family abuse cases
The Northern Echo, 22/05/2014, P.8
Teesside Law Clinic has launched a legal challenge to prevent people who suffered historic sex abuse at the hands of a family member missing out on compensation.


Legal challenge launched for victims of historic sexual abuse
The Northern Echo [online] 21/05/2014
Teesside Law Clinic has launched a legal challenge to prevent people who suffered historic sex abuse at the hands of a family member missing out on compensation.


Woman abused by stepfather fights for compensation
The Telegraph [online] 21/05/2014
Teesside University’s Law Clinic has launched a landmark legal challenge to prevent those who suffered historic sex abuse at the hands of a family member missing out on compensation.