Catholic Church claimed child sex abuse victims ‘consented’

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has refused payment to 700 victims and child sexual abuse survivors

Fiona Keating
Monday 21 August 2017 17:45
Lawyers warn that this type of defence is becoming increasingly common
Lawyers warn that this type of defence is becoming increasingly common

The Catholic Church and British local authorities have been accused of using a legal loophole to avoid paying compensation to victims of child sex abuse.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, a government agency, has denied some children financial settlements because it said the victims had “consented” to the abuse, a group of charities has warned.

Lawyers representing victims have warned that this line of defence is becoming increasingly common.

One case that the charity Victim Support brought attention to involved a 12-year-old girl who was given alcohol, brought into woodland and then sexually assaulted by a 21-year-old male. The girl was denied compensation because she had “voluntarily” gone into the woods with the man.

“No child ever gives their ‘consent’ to being abused, and the increased use of this line of defence, although still quite rare, is worrying,” said Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England. "I have contacted the Ministry of Justice previously and again recently about this issue and the Government should look urgently at what can be done to tackle it.”

The Sunday Telegraph reported that it had seen documents regarding two cases where the defence was used. A claimant who was raped at the age of 15 was told by lawyers representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark that his abuse "actually occurred in the context of a consensual relationship (albeit one the claimant in retrospect now appears to regret)".

The victim said "I was below the legal age of consent anyway and there's a grooming element to that kind of situation. It was totally disregarded and it made me feel really small." The case was finally settled, with the Catholic Church paying out £80,000.

Dino Nocivelli, a specialist child abuse solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp told Kent Live: “It is time for the church to practise what they preach and to admit their failings, to take account of the damage this has caused to the lives of far too many children and lastly to apologise for the abuse.”

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Southwark said that the church does not comment on individual cases out of respect for the claimant’s privacy. He added that the Archdiocese “supports the right of anyone who has suffered harm to seek compensation.”

Since the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) was launched in 2012, approximately 700 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have had their claims rejected.