Sexually abused children as young as 12 are being refused compensation by a Government agency on the grounds that they “consented” to their abuse, charities have warned.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has refused payouts to nearly 700 child victims of sexual abuse since 2012, ranging between £1,000 and £44,000, according to a Freedom of Information request.
The charity coalition, which includes Barnardo’s, Victim Support and Liberty, has written to the Justice Secretary David Lidington, demanding the government urgently reviews CICA’s guidelines.
While the law states that it is a crime to have sexual activity with someone under the age of 16, the payment rules are being interpreted to suggest children can consent to their abuse, the coalition said.
The charities are calling for the rules to be changed so no child groomed and manipulated into sexual abuse is denied compensation because they complied with their abuse through fear or lack of understanding.
YouGov polling for the campaign shows two thirds of people (66 per cent) of people think the rules should be amended so a child cannot be found to have “consented” to activities involved in their sexual exploitation.
In one case, a girl who was raped and sexually assaulted when she was 14 at the hands of a gang of older men who were subsequently jailed for 30 years was denied compensation by CICA on the grounds that “she had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts”.
She was reportedly left devastated feeling that she was somehow responsible for the abuse she’d suffered.
Director of Liberty Martha Spurrier said it was a “disgrace” that a state agency could imply child sex abuse victims who may have been brainwashed or manipulated had consented.
“Grooming is brainwashing – perpetrators manipulate children into situations that look like consent. No child can consent to abuse, which is why the criminal law rightly says they are simply unable to do so,” she said.
“For a state agency to tell children who have survived these horrific crimes that they did consent – and deny them compensation – is a disgrace. The Government must urgently change these guidelines.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan called for the CICA’s guidelines to be “urgently reviewed” to prevent rules that are supposed to protect children from harming them, saying: “For children to be denied compensation on the grounds that they ‘consented’ to the abuse they have suffered is nothing short of scandalous.
“The very rules that are supposed to protect children are actually harming them. The Government must urgently review CICA’s guidelines so that young victims receive the redress they deserve. Ministers must guarantee that no child will ever be told that they consented to their own abuse.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies