Murdered prostitute's son, 3, denied aid

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The Independent Online
A boy aged three has had an application for financial compensation for his mother's murder turned down because she was a prostitute.

Dawn Shields, a 19-year-old Sheffield woman, was strangled and her naked body dumped on moorland two years ago. Her killer has not been caught.

An orphaned child would normally receive compensation from the state for such a murder, but the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has twice rejected the claim. It has ruled that the boy, Naryle, who is being brought up by Ms Shields's mother, cannot receive any money because the dead woman had convictions for prostitution.

The rejection comes amid lawyers' growing concern at the CICB denying compensation to people with criminal records, even when the convictions are unrelated to the crimes committed against them. People affected include women who have been raped and children who have been sexually abused.

Lawyers for 40 former residents of children's homes who say they were sexually and physically abused while in care in England and North Wales, but have had applications for compensation turned down because of their own crimes, will appeal next month. They will argue that the convictions, mostly for petty crimes, were acquired after the abuse occurred, and in some cases the traumatic experiences created the lifestyles that led to those convictions.

The CICB has discretionary power to refuse compensation where an applicant's character and conduct make an award "inappropriate". This, says the pressure group Women Against Rape, is unjust, and compensation should be based on evidence about the attack itself. It claims that women who have convictions for unrelated offences including shoplifting have had compensation claims turned down. Some of the women have been prostitutes whose attackers were jailed, and at least two have had to go to appeal to receive awards, one for pounds 17,500.

Later this year Ms Shields's mother, Margaret, will make a third approach to the CICB to try to persuade it to award compensation to her and her grandson.