The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up in 2014, and has been investigating institutions and organisations that have failed to protect young children from sexual abuse.
The IICSA has published its report into Accountability and Reparations for child sexual abuse survivors. The report has found that the victims were let down by the civil and criminal system and have been denied any redress for the failings. The report shows the challenges that the victims of abuse have faced in trying to get justice from the criminal and civil justice systems.
The investigation considered five key case studies from the 1960s to date:
“North Wales children’s homes; Forde Park School in Devon; St Leonard’s children’s home in London; St Aidan’s and St Vincent’s children’s homes in Cheshire and Merseyside and Stanhope Castle School in County Durham.”
The Inquiry heard from 40 witnesses during the 15 days of public hearings, including victims of abuse; police forces; the councils in whose care the victims were placed and the insurance companies that admitted to using limitations on compensation.
The IICSA looked at how the victims of abuse faced hurdles when they tried to seek compensation. The IICSA found that some victims proved their cases on facts but failed to receive compensation due to the law of limitation. Limitation places a time limit on historical claims.
Professor Alexis Jay OBE, Chair of the Inquiry, said:
“The Panel and I hope this report and its recommendations can help make seeking redress a less complex and distressing process for extremely vulnerable people.”
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse Accountability and Reparations have made the following recommendations in their report:
“Signposting civil and criminal compensation”
- Recommendation 1:
The Ministry of Justice should revise the Victims’ Code to make clear that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse must be advised by the police that:
- They are entitled to seek civil compensation through the civil courts and, if they wish to do so, should seek legal advice – they should be signposted to specialist lawyers identified by the Ministry of Justice.
- They are entitled to assistance completing any application to the CICA, should they require it. Such assistance should be provided by independent sexual violence advisers or other suitably qualified and trained persons.
- At the conclusion of any criminal proceedings, the court may make orders for the payment of criminal compensation by convicted offenders to their victims.
- They are entitled to be referred to organisations supporting victims of sexual abuse. They should be signposted to the support services available in their local area.
The College of Policing should make changes to its guidance (currently Authorised Professional Practice) to require police officers to provide oral and written information on each of these matters.
The Ministry of Justice should also provide further information on how the new compliance framework, and any other developments, will improve compliance with the Code for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.
The civil justice system
- Recommendation 2:
The Local Government Association and the Association of British Insurers should each produce codes of practice for responding to civil claims of child sexual abuse.
The codes should include recognition of the long‐term emotional and psychiatric or psychological effects of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors, and acknowledgement that these effects may make it difficult for victims and survivors to disclose that they have been sexually abused and to initiate civil claims for that abuse.
The codes should also include guidance that:
- Claimants should be treated sensitively throughout the litigation process;
- The defence of limitation should only be used in exceptional circumstances;
- Single experts jointly instructed by both parties should be considered for the assessment of the claimants’ psychiatric, psychological or physical injuries; and
- Wherever possible, claimants should be offered apologies, acknowledgement, redress and support.
- Recommendation 3:
The Government should introduce legislation revising the Compensation Act 2006 to clarify that section 2 facilitates apologies or offers of treatment or other redress to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by institutions that may be vicariously liable for the actions or omissions of other persons, including the perpetrators.
- Recommendation 4:
The Department for Work and Pensions should work with the Association of British Insurers to introduce a national register of public liability insurance policies. The register should provide details of the relevant organisation, the name of the insurer, all relevant contact details, the period of cover, and the insurance limit. These requirements should apply to policies issued and renewed after the commencement of the register, and those against which a claim has already been made.
The Financial Conduct Authority should make the necessary regulatory changes to compel insurers that provide public liability insurance to retain and publish details of all current policies.
- Recommendation 5:
The Judicial College should revise its Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases to include a freestanding section on the damages that may be appropriate in cases of child sexual abuse.
This new section of the guidelines should advise the court to take into account the nature and severity of the abuse itself, any short‐term and long‐term physical, emotional and psychiatric or psychological injuries, and the general effect of the abuse on the claimant’s capacity to function throughout their life. The latter may include the ability to sustain personal and sexual relationships, to benefit from education and to undertake paid employment.
Criminal compensation orders (CCOs)
- Recommendation 6:
The Ministry of Justice should consult with the Sentencing Council, the Judicial College, the Crown Prosecution Service and other relevant bodies, in order to increase the use of CCOs, where appropriate, in cases involving child sexual abuse by, among other things, implementing guidance for the judiciary and prosecutors in the Crown Courts and Magistrates’ Courts.
Support through civil proceedings
- Recommendation 7:
The International Underwriting Association of London should take the lead in the production of a code for the benefit of claimants who are bringing civil claims for child sexual abuse. The aim should be to produce a code, comparable to the Rehabilitation Code or for inclusion in that code, with the objective of ensuring that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse are able to access the therapy and support they need as soon as possible.
Nigel O’Mara has been a witness to the inquiry as a survivor and a counsellor, and has waived his right to anonymity.
Mr O’Mara stated that more detailed recommendations were needed and stated:
“the recommendations that have been given don’t have the teeth they need. It’s no good saying that the police should refer people to support services where in large parts of the country no such services exist. And especially not for male survivors. In the report it mentions that not enough exist but there are no recommendations to make sure that all survivors have access to local services.”
Mr O’Mara hoped that the recommendation to revise the Compensation Act would be implemented by the Government.
“This should allow survivors to be given interim payments without liability to allow them to access counselling and psychological support while they are waiting for the compensation process which can take decades and can also be very retraumatising in itself.”
No recommendations have been made yet for the mandatory reporting of abuse for people working with children. A spokesperson for the inquiry told The London Economic:
“The Chair and Panel are considering mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse as part of their examination of reporting arrangements more broadly in England and Wales, and whether these could be improved.
“The Inquiry is gathering evidence and information on the issue through its investigations, research, seminars, and the experiences of victims and survivors as heard through the Truth Project, as well as a consultation with the Victim and Survivor Forum.
“The Inquiry will report its conclusions on mandatory reporting in due course.”