The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) Scheme is sometimes the only way a victim of sexual abuse can obtain compensation for the loss that they have suffered. The Scheme has many complexities and to obtain the best results, a victim should seek advice from somebody with extensive experience of dealing with this type of case.
Farleys have been bringing claims successfully for abuse victims using the CICA Scheme for a number of decades. We regularly secure damages of over £100,000 and, in one notable case, recovered over £1.6 million for a victim of historic sexual abuse. To speak to a specialist CICA claims solicitor in confidence, please call our dedicated abuse claims line on 0330 134 6430.
Over the years the Scheme has changed in many important ways. Having a solicitor with expertise in this area of work is essential in securing the best possible result. In theory, the Scheme seems straightforward. Each possible injury is given a tariff and as long as you come within the terms of the Scheme, you should have an entitlement to an appropriate tariff award.
There are some important points to consider if you are looking to make a CICA claim, particularly if you are a survivor of historic abuse, and your solicitor will discuss the relevant ones with you.
The vast majority of the clients who come to us are already “out of time” for bringing a claim. Under the CICA Scheme a claim must either be brought within two years of the incident occurring or, in the case of childhood abuse, by the applicant’s 20th birthday.
Our clients are often 20 or 30 years out of time when they initially instruct us. From experience, however, it is rare for a claim following historic sexual abuse to be disallowed for being out of time. The CICA have a discretion to extend the time limits, as long as certain conditions are satisfied. It has to be established that there are exceptional circumstances as to why the applicant could not have applied earlier and that evidence available confirms that a claim can be brought without extensive enquiries by a claims officer.
It is important to address the time limit from the outset and we often obtain medical evidence to show why it would have been impossible for a victim to bring the claim at an earlier stage, often because of the psychiatric impact of the abuse.
In a case of historic abuse which has been reported to the police after the victim’s 18th birthday, an additional time limit applies – any application must be submitted within two years of the date of the first report to the police. This can again cause problems for abuse victims. A study has suggested that rape cases are taking nearly three years to come to court and reach a verdict.
This leaves abuse victims with a dilemma. They will automatically be outside the terms of the Scheme if they delay submitting a claim. Equally, if they submit a claim whilst a criminal prosecution is ongoing, they leave themselves open to accusations that they allegations have only been raised for financial benefit. The defence team in the criminal proceedings will try and argue that the claimant has only raised allegations because of his or her desire to pursue a criminal injuries compensation claim.
We believe that this section of the Scheme needs to be revised. We have, however, successfully argued with the CICA in the past that discretion should be exercised where a victim delays bringing a claim until criminal proceedings have concluded. We often also have the police’s support in this argument.
Claiming for Psychiatric Injury
The Scheme appears relatively straightforward in relation to psychiatric injury but when working with the Scheme on a practical level, you find that the CICA invariably offer less than a claim is genuinely worth. There is an insistence that psychiatric evidence be produced if an award is to be made for psychiatric injury. This often leaves the victims with a difficulty where they do not have a treating psychiatrist and have spent many years avoiding talking about their difficulties.
We have a specialist panel of psychiatrists which we use to prepare reports in support of CICA claims for victims in this position. These reports are not only helpful in establishing the existence of a psychiatric injury but also in explaining to the CICA the delay in bringing a claim.
It is also important to address the extent of any psychiatric injury, whether it is permanent and whether it is moderately or severely disabling. The experts we use are all skilled in assessing these questions which are essential in applying the correct tariff to any award.
Claiming for Loss of Earnings
Sexual abuse often has a significant impact on an applicant’s ability to work. If the abuse occurred in childhood it will have impacted on the applicant’s education. We find that many of our clients have struggled to work in adulthood. The most up to date Scheme allows for very limited loss of earning payments, presently capped at approximately £5,000 per annum, but where this covers a lifetime of earnings it can amount to a substantial figure.
Claiming for Care Costs
It is possible to claim from the CICA for care costs. Under the Scheme, a “special expenses” payment may be made. It is important to consider from the outset whether an abuse victim may fall within this either in relation to the care they need on a daily basis or any help they may need in managing any fund awarded.
We have an expertise at Farleys in acting for victims of grooming gangs, including gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford, and the North East of England. These claims are particularly complex because the victims may have suffered abuse at the hands of many different perpetrators, some of whom are linked to the same gangs and some of whom are unrelated.
Where multiple incidents have occurred, it is important to consider from the outset submitting separate CICA claims for the separate incidents. Again, this is a complex area because the CICA award for the injury sustained and, if each incident has had a combined contribution to a single psychiatric injury, only one award will be made.
In some cases, we have had numerous payments from the CICA for multiple separate incidents where the CICA have been persuaded to treat each assault differently.
The CICA can refuse an award where they feel that an applicant’s character and convictions make any payment from the public purse inappropriate. Sadly, we are finding that the CICA increasingly attempt to refuse payments because of an applicant’s character, drawing on references within medical records to support their position.
It is important that these decisions are challenged. We have two cases proceeding to appeal at present where a compensation was refused, not because an applicant has past convictions but purely because of information extracted from their medical records suggesting poor behaviour in the past.
A separate article appears on our website specifically in relation to re-opening CICA cases. We often find that abuse victims have received a payment at the time of the abuse which merely compensates for the injury at the time. It does not take account of the long-term psychiatric impact and it does not take account of loss of earnings.
We have successfully re-opened claims for abuse victims and find that these often result in significant payments – in one particular case, over £200,000 was recovered for a victim whose claim was reopened.
When a case is re-opened, it is considered under the Scheme applicable at the time. For example, if an award had been made in 1997 and an application was made to re-open that case, it would be dealt with under the 1996 Scheme. It is therefore essential that you speak with a solicitor with a long history of dealing with this type of case who will be familiar with the various guises of the Scheme, particularly in relation to the loss of earnings position where, in the past, full loss of earnings awards could be achieved.
We understand that it can be difficult to speak about the abuse your have experienced. Our team are happy to discuss the possibility of making a claim in confidence and at the pace you choose. You can contact them via our dedicated abuse claims line on 0330 134 6430, through our online contact form or through the live chat below.
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