Rape compensation cut for drunk victims

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The Independent Online

Rape victim campaigners today called for an inquiry into "old and silly prejudices" after it emerged that some women had compensation cut because they had been drinking.

In the past year, 14 rape victims - 1 per cent of rape-related applications - were told they would receive lower levels of compensation due to alcohol consumption, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) told the Guardian newspaper

One woman, who believes she was raped four years ago after having her drink spiked, successfully overturned a decision by the CICA to award her less money because she had been drinking "excessively".

She told The Guardian that being told the standard award of £11,000 would be reduced by 25 per cent in her case, to £8,250 "felt like a slap in the face".

She received a letter from the CICA which stated: "The evidence that we have shows that your excessive consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor in the incident."

The woman said: "When I read the CICA letter I just had no words; I could not take it in.

"It felt like I was being punished for having the audacity to step up and say 'I don't think this should have happened to me'.

"It was like going back to the '70s, saying 'she was asking for it'.

"How else could you read the letter but as saying it's my fault I was raped?"

The CICA admitted its compensation scheme was "originally applied wrongly" but the mistake was corrected at review and the award was paid in full.

However, Sandra McNeill, of the Campaign to End Rape, called for an inquiry.

She said: "No woman is responsible for being raped. A man knows what he is doing and it is never the woman's fault.

"Once a woman has gone through the terrible procedure of reporting a rape the compensation is irrelevant because the effect of the crime on the victim is the same.

"Rape is rape is rape."

Ms McNeill said that the Government should examine past cases of rape to see if "old and silly prejudices" have affected final decisions.

"Old prejudices like if a woman is wearing a short skirt or acting in a certain way are still operational", she said.

"They seem to think that all women should live like middle-class housewives of the 1950s. Nobody lives like that anymore.

"They are simply silly, silly prejudices.

"By reducing compensation because a woman has been drinking CICA is operating under those old prejudices."

A spokesman for the CICA said: "CICA's policy is not to make a reduction on a claim for compensation following rape on the basis of alcohol consumption.

"The scheme was originally applied wrongly in this case, but this was corrected at review and the award was paid in full."

CICA has reviewed staff instructions, operating procedures and structure to ensure greater consistency in decision-making, the spokesman said.

He added: "We deal with around 60,000 cases each year. There may be times when an original decision is wrong.

"This is why we have a review process to allow the applicant to challenge that decision.

"As a final safeguard there is the opportunity to ask an independent appeals panel to look at the case afresh."

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said: "It is not our policy to reduce the level of award to a victim of rape due to alcohol consumption.

"This stance supports our view that a victim of rape is not in any way culpable due to alcohol consumption.

"It is never an individual's fault if he/she gets raped; regardless of how much he/she has drunk."