Examination of Witness (Questions 280-299)
MR HOWARD WEBBER
TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2002
280. Mr Webber, can we just clarify the figures. I think you said that 32 applications have been made since whenFebruary, this year?
(Mr Webber) Yes, the last four months or so.
281. Which are about 2 per cent of the total?
(Mr Webber) Two per cent of the total child abuse applications. It is about one-eighth of one per cent of the total applications. We will have received rather more than 20,000 applications since the 1st February this year, probably about 25,000 since 1st February this year, of which 1,500 are child abuse applications and 32 are institutional child abuse applications.
282. So what are the categories of abuse which are not institutional?
(Mr Webber) The vast majority of abuse in society is obviously familial, friend of the family, relative, stranger, those sorts of categories. Institutional child abuse obviously is a small minority.
283. Has that other category expanded?
(Mr Webber) No, the number of applications we have received over the past several years has stayed pretty static at something like 5,000 every year, which is about 7 per cent of our total applications.
284. Of which how many do you uphold?
(Mr Webber) About 75 per cent, just under 75 per cent on average.
285. But of the institutional ones, last year you identified 48 cases? Is that right?
(Mr Webber) Yes.
286. Of which just half led to an award or about half?
(Mr Webber) I cannot say that those are comprehensive figures because, as I have explained to Mr Malins, at that point we were not collecting statistics in that way. But we did identify those 48 and of those 48, indeed half did receive an award, which is not surprising because, as has been said, a high proportion of applicants who had been in children's homes or institutional settings generally will have serious criminal records which will lead us in general to reduce or refuse an award.
287. Now, why do you think there are so few applications to you and yet such a very large number of civil actions in this area?
(Mr Webber) I do not know. I can only speculate on that. I checked out the number of potential applications, the number of applications we might have received in terms of the number of complainants there have been in the majority of the large police operations over the past few years. In general, we received applications from something just less than 20 per cent of the complainants in these cases which is not a very high proportion. So, for instance, in the North Wales case 650 people, I think, gave evidence to the inquiry and we received only about 110 applications.
288. And these tended to come presumably from cases where the abuser had been convicted. Is that right?
(Mr Webber) Probably more commonly than is the case in our caseload generally, but I am not sure I could generalise to that extent.
289. Well, you do give awards, do you, in cases where there has not been a criminal conviction?
(Mr Webber) Yes, because in many cases an offender is not identified, not so much in child abuse cases, but in other cases. Obviously if someone has been mugged and the offender has absconded
290. Yes, I understand that, but in child abuse cases.
(Mr Webber) In child abuse cases, yes, there will usually be, there will invariably be an identified offender, but he or she may have died or may have been convicted of a whole raft of offences and the CPS simply chose not to include the offences against our applicant among that, so there are all sorts of reasons why there may not have been a conviction at all.
291. Or the case may have collapsed?
(Mr Webber) Well, if the case had collapsed, we would be very unlikely indeed to make an award.
292. So that would be a reason why somebody who had complained did not come to you?
(Mr Webber) Possibly, although as often as not, I would say, applications are made before trial.
293. So obviously one of the reasons why applicants do not proceed is because the case collapses or is not proceeded with?
(Mr Webber) Yes, that can well be the case.
294. Could it be because the sums of money available under the public scheme are considerably less than those available via a civil action?
(Mr Webber) Quite possibly, and also the fact that Legal Aid is not available for applications for criminal compensation which it is for applications for civil actions.
295. Could it also be because I am right in thinking that you examine each case on a case-by-case basis, do you not?
(Mr Webber) Absolutely.
296. Whereas a civil action might be a group action?
(Mr Webber) I cannot comment on the way that civil actions are dealt with, but certainly we deal with every case absolutely individually.
297. As I am sure you are aware, civil actions are dealt with on a group basis and that tends to be negotiation between two sets of lawyers on a block basis.
(Mr Webber) I really would not want to talk about the way that civil actions are dealt with. That is not within my competence.
298. I am sure it is not outside your competence, Mr Webber.
(Mr Webber) I have the intelligent citizen's awareness, no more than that.
299. Exactly, so would you offer us that?
(Mr Webber) It is my understanding that there are such negotiations which do take place.