Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda



MEMORANDUM 15

Submitted by Mr Howard Webber, Chief Executive, Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) (CA 137)

  1.  I hope that the information in this letter and in the attached table is helpful. But I should strike one warning note. With a few exceptions the figures relate to all applications arising from alleged incidents of child abuse, not merely those where the abuse is alleged to have taken place in a children's home. Most of our applications of this type arise from alleged abuse within the family, in other domestic circumstances or by a stranger. Unfortunately we cannot be definite about the number of children's home cases, since until now we have not classified cases in this way. I have instructed that we now (from 1 February) do so. But this will apply only to new applications.

  2.  Before taking you through statistics, I shall deal with your two other questions: the factors which we take into consideration when deciding whether to make an award, and the amounts awarded in these cases. These comments also constitute my response to the third of the bullet point issues in your letter; whether advertising possible compensation in child abuse cases may encourage people to come forward with false allegations. I have no particular comments on the other bullet point items.

  3.  There is no difference in principle in the issues we take into account in dealing with applications arising from alleged child abuse as against any other applications. Our governing document is the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme—I attach a copy of the 2001 scheme[29]. We rely on information from the police, and, where appropriate, the Crown Prosecution Service or Crown Office as to the circumstances of the incident, and from medical authorities as to the severity of the injuries and how well the applicant is recovering from them. We apply the civil law rather than criminal law standard of proof: the issues do not need to be proved beyond reasonable doubt; rather, we have to be satisfied that it is more likely than not that the applicant was the innocent victim of a crime of violence.

  4.  Paragraphs 13 and 14 of the scheme are also crucial in answering your question. We will reduce or refuse an award if an application without reasonable excuse fails to cooperate with ourselves or with the police; if he or she contributed to the incident causing the injury (for instance, by willingly taking part in a fight); and if he or she has a significant criminal record. I should be happy to expand on any of these points if you or the Committee wish.

  5.  As I have said, in principle all of the above applies to applications arising out of alleged child abuse. The main difference in practice in these cases is that they tend to relate to events alleged to have taken place many years before the application. In general the scheme allows us to accept applications only within two years of the incident giving rise to the application. We do have discretion to waive this time limit when it is reasonable and in the interests of justice to do so, and naturally allegations of child abuse will often fall into this category.

  6.  As to the issue whether publicity about possible compensation (or just knowledge of possible compensation) might encourage false allegations, clearly there is a danger of this. Equally clearly we must largely depend on the police to distinguish between false and true allegations: the better their investigations, the better our decisions. In any case we will require some sort of corroborating evidence—generally supplied by the police—if we are to decide in favour of an award. I should emphasise that in cases of alleged child abuse where we refuse an award the decision will be based far more often simply on an insufficiency of evidence than on any suspicion that the case is fabricated. But there are inevitably some cases which we will treat with particular scepticism—for instance, where the alleged victim has not reported the matter to the police, let alone applied to us, until after an offender has already been convicted for related offences. Clearly there can be valid reasons for such a delay. But since first, the applicant may be able to use any press coverage the case has received to assist in his or her application, and second, it is less likely that the police will carry out an in depth investigation, we have to treat such cases with particular care.

 

  7.  As a final point on the issue of inducements to apply, I think that we could possibly do more than we have done to stress the point that allegations without supporting evidence will almost inevitably lead to no award. This may help to discourage some false allegations, and would certainly have the advantage of giving genuine claimants realistic expectations.

  8.  Turning to your other question—the amounts of compensation—these depend on the severity of the applicant's injuries and are governed by a "tariff of injuries". This is at the back of the 2001 Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, and consists of around 400 injury descriptions with a set sum of money payable for each. The award levels for sexual assault and abuse are on pages 30 to 32.

  9.  Now to the statistics. They should be seen against the background of our receiving rather more than 75,000 applications of all sorts every year, and making awards in slightly over 50 per cent of these cases. The current average award level is around 3,100.

  10.  The attached table provides information about child (and, separately for information, adult) sexual assault and abuse cases resolved over the past three years, the number resulting in a money award, the number resulting in no award and the total sums awarded. I could, if you wish, list award levels by (anonymous) case, but this would not add much. You will see that the average award level for these cases (around 4,800 in 2000-01) is higher than in the general run of cases, reflecting the tariff award levels payable in cases of child abuse. I should emphasise again that these figures relate to all applications of alleged child abuse. Those alleged to have taken place in children's homes form only a minority of the total.

  11.  Finally, a few other statistics may be of interest:

    —  As noted above, one of the grounds on which we must consider refusing or reducing an award is the applicant's criminal record. The proportion of cases overall where we have refused an award and that refusal was on the grounds of criminal record is fairly similar in child abuse cases and in cases as a whole—7.7 per cent and 6.9 per cent respectively in 2000-01.

    —  The proportion of decisions to make a reduced award where the ground for that decision was the applicant's criminal record was much higher in child abuse cases than in cases as a whole—66 per cent against 40 per cent in 2000-01. This is not very surprising given that the applicant's contributory conduct is a common reason for reducing an award in "general" cases but clearly not in child abuse cases.

    —  The gender breakdown of applications is very different in child abuse cases from those in general. For applications as a whole, 66 per cent of applicants are boys or men (which reflects the preponderance of men as victims of violent crime). But boys and men constitute only 25 per cent of our child abuse applicants. This may reflect the incidence of such abuse, or it may reflect at least in part the greater reluctance of boys and men to come forward with such allegations.

    —  We could not provide accurate numbers of children's home cases without trawling through many thousands of files individually. We have, however, identified 48 cases of this type resolved in 2000-01; we cannot be definite how representative they are. Of the 48 cases, just under 50 per cent (23) led to an award, of which two were reduced awards. The total sum awarded was a little over 146,000—an average of around 6,400 per award. Of the 25 cases refused, 11 were, in essence, based on insufficient evidence; 10 on the seriousness of the applicant's criminal record; three on the basis that the alleged incident happened before 1964 (an absolute bar on our providing compensation); and one on the basis that the applicant's injuries were not sufficiently serious for our minimum award of 1,000 to be payable.

February 2002

Attachment

 

CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT/ABUSE CASES RESOLVED

 

1998-99

1999-2000

2000-01

Money award

4,113

3,861

3,578

No award

1,287

1,382

1,254

Total number

5,400

5,243

4,832

Total award amount m

18.6

18.2

17.1

ADULT SEXUAL ASSAULT/ABUSE CASES RESOLVED

 

1998-99

1999-2000

2000-01

Money award

1,049

1,052

925

No award

569

612

559

Total number

1,618

1,664

1,484

Total award amount m

4.7

4.9

4.9

 

 


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