Submitted by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) (CA 138)
(a) Is there a risk that the advertisement of prospective awards of compensation in child abuse cases encourages people to come forward with fabricated allegations?
Those adults who have survived child abuse do not fall into a single category. However, many potential Claimants are psychologically unable to bring forward claims on their own behalf.
This may be for the following reasons:
They may continue to blame themselves for the abuse (no matter how young they were when it occurred).
Making any sort of complaint may take considerable courage.
Even when the abuse itself has ended, this may not be the end of the relationship between the abuser and the abused.
Where the abuse is frequent and they have been kept out of society for some time, they may have come to believe that the abuse was normal.
Having made a complaint as a child, which was ignored or belittled, the abuse survivor may also feel they will not be believed again.
The above are well-recognised reasons why survivors of sexual abuse are often so late to claim for compensationor indeed to report the matter to the police. They are issues which Judges in civil litigation have often recognised as arguments to disapply the limitation period under section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980.
For the above reasons, among others, the publicising of possible compensation in child abuse cases is a very important method of ensuring that survivors of child abuse, who have considerable psychological injury and/or are frightened of coming forward, are able to make their claims known.
Evidence gathering in cases where abuse occurred many years previously is often extremely difficult and this weighs heavily against the possibility that there will be large numbers of people coming forward to make false allegations of abuse.
The pros of making such advertisements, in the sense of compensating the right victims adequately for the abuse that they have suffered, far outweigh the slight possibility that the odd person may make false claims. The group able to claim in the first instance is limited by the fact that they will have to have been in a particular home at a particular time and have suffered identifiable injuries.
(b) Should there be a limitin terms of number of years since the alleged offence took placeon prosecution of cases of child abuse?
We can see no reason to impose a limit on the prosecution of cases of child abuse, given the great severity of the crime and the proven lasting injury to the abused, many of whom remain unable to report the crime until they are reassured many years later that they were not responsible for the abuse themselves and that what occurred was actually wrong.
AWARDS IN ABUSE CASES
Awards have tended to be on the increase in the last few years, and even some of the domestic cases that have made their way to the European Court of Human Rights have resulted in some sizeable awards.
Depending on the severity of the injuryin particular residual and identifiable psychological injury and loss of earnings as a result, current awards are spanning from perhaps £10,000.00 to £100,000.00 maximum. Reading the cases and from my own experience figures between £30,000.00 and £75,000.00 seem to be becoming the mean.
A useful judgment to refer to in this respect would be the "Bryn Allen Community Homes" judgment (26 June 2001) where the awards fitted into this category. However, there are some awards which are higher than this amount and awards seem to be increasing as greater attention is paid to expert psychological or psychiatric evidence in Court.