Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It depends entirely on whether adequate records were kept of age, sex, multiple injuries and so on. Technically, the noble Baroness, who is a fellow social scientist, is quite right. Perhaps that is something that the Minister may like to pursue. One can make much better use of data of that kind if one has collected them correctly in the first instance. I am encouraged by the sampling exercise. I should like to feel that it can be used to greater effect than it has been, and I very much agree with what the noble Baroness said. Perhaps that is also a matter that we could consider "off line". I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 28:


After clause 2, insert the following new clause—

Exclusion from Tariff of case of child sexual abuse

(". The Scheme shall provide for the calculation of a compensation award to a claimant who was below the age of 18 years on the date of the injury and who claims compensation for the consequences of sexual assault or other sexual abuse to be made upon the same principles as an award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity at common law.").

16 Oct 1995 : Column 657

The noble and learned Lord said: The Committee may find it convenient to discuss Amendment No. 29 with Amendment No. 28.

Once again we are addressing the inflexibility of the tariff scheme. In the course of the last debate the noble Baroness said that it had been argued that some categories of case are not susceptible to a tariff approach. It has indeed been so argued, and I argue that now, because it is true.

There are some situations which are notoriously difficult to assess in terms of appropriate compensation, whether one is arguing a personal injury case in the courts or one is a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. There are some cases where the effects of what is done vary enormously by reason of a whole range of factors of which no account is taken in the tariff. In fairness, I doubt whether account could easily be taken of such factors.

The two categories we raise in this debate were mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, when he introduced Amendment No. 6. His suggestion for dealing with the problem was a series of bands instead of a single inflexible figure against each entry in the tariff. The noble Lord was right when he said that our proposals—he was probably referring to those in this amendment—go further. We believe that there are some kinds of injury which do not fit into a tariff scheme at all, for the reasons which the noble Lord gave. For example, the effects of a sexual assault may vary with a whole range of factors: the degree of violence or intimidation; the place where the offence took place, whether it was a lonely country lane at night or a home which the offender shared with the victim; the degree of relationship between the two sides.

The scheme seeks to deal with those difficulties by forcing them into a series of boxes. At an earlier stage the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, gave some examples. In the case of sexual abuse of children, repeated non-consensual vaginal and/or anal intercourse over a period of up to three years compensation would be £10,000; in a similar situation lasting longer than three years it would be £17,500. There is not a gradation but a jump. In the case of sexual assaults other than on children, compensation for non-consensual vaginal or anal intercourse the figure would be £7,500; and for the same offence involving two or more attackers there is a jump to £10,000. If there are other serious bodily injuries there is a further jump to £17,500.

The problem is that, if one attempts to produce a tariff by reference to the average of awards that have been made over a period of time, that average will fall very far short of what would be an appropriate level of compensation for the worst cases. My noble friend Lord McIntosh gave some examples in relation to the injuries that he discussed in the course of the previous debate. Perhaps I may give three examples.

The first is the case of a female aged three and a half who was subjected to sexual abuse over a period of time. She experienced disruption of sleep, loss of appetite, a reversion to bedwetting, was reluctant to associate with male adults, and refused to co-operate in a medical examination to assess whether physical damage had taken place. A psychiatric assessment

16 Oct 1995 : Column 658

concluded that family and social services support might alleviate acute problems but there was uncertainty as to whether it would be necessary to intervene therapeutically at different stages of development as the child grew up. Here we compare like with like. The general award of damages was £7,500. So far as we can judge, the tariff award would have been £2,000.

Perhaps I may take another example. A boy and girl aged respectively 13 and 12 years were abused by their father over a long period. Despite injunctions, it was believed that he wanted to continue to see the children. It was thought that the harassment and terror were an important contribution to the children's failure to overcome any of their major symptoms caused by the abuse; they had aggravated the abuse. There could not be provision for that situation in the tariff without making the tariff impossibly complicated. General damages in that case were £15,000 for each child. Under the tariff they would have received £6,000.

The effects can vary from permanent psychological damage which may ruin a victim's life to the shock and distress which a particularly robust individual may put behind him or her after a few months.

Perhaps I may turn to the other example: sexual assaults on other than children. Again I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that some of those damages cannot be forced into boxes. I give one example of a female aged 27 at the date of the assault. Already she had developed epilepsy. She had educational learning difficulties and suffered from a pre-existing schizo-affective disorder. She was then living reasonably happily in sheltered accommodation. Following the incident, her mental state deteriorated. Her schizophrenic symptoms flared up. She developed severe depression. The evidence of the consultant was that the change in the pattern of her illness was significant and appeared likely to extend for an indefinite period into the future. Her general damages were £10,000. Under the tariff scheme she would have received £3,000.

One could go on. I hope, however, that the noble Baroness will take on board that there are some kinds of injury where the effects vary enormously with a range of factors which have not been included in the scheme and could not reasonably be expected to be included. We do not seek to abolish the scheme. We simply say that every rule has some sensible exceptions. I hope that the Government will find it possible to think again on this issue. I beg to move.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I support what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, said. When I moved Amendment No. 6, I stated to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that I preferred my approach to his because I had attempted to meet the Government's intention to obtain a tariff and to find some discretion within the tariff. However, I have to come clean and say that that apart my preference would be for the total exclusion of sexual offences from the tariff for all the reasons that have been stated. The board has always taken the view that sexual assaults on children are not properly or suitably assessed under a tariff scheme. Every word that one heard from the Minister in answer to the last debate on multiple injuries, and from what I suspect she will

16 Oct 1995 : Column 659

say on this issue, proves the case that we should be discussing a hybrid scheme with something like 85 per cent. of cases being dealt with under a tariff. The 15 per cent. which are extremely complicated or serious, or involve particularly sensitive aspects of matters such as child abuse, should have been put out to individual assessment. In that way a great deal more money would have been saved than the Government will save at the end of the day.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I endorse what the noble Lord said. Practice has shown that the great majority of children who have been abused, whether boys or girls, are in local authority care. No matter what award a single board member makes to the child, the local authority has to watch its back, so to speak. It has to look after the interest of the child. Inevitably it appeals against the award. It is a very, very difficult, almost impossible, situation to ask members of the board to deal with. I adopt the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, that there should perhaps be a special sexual abuse unit, government-funded or otherwise, to deal with these matters, with specialists dealing with local authorities.

A lot of time is wasted. One can readily understand why people in the social services and the local authorities appeal against most awards. It is because they could no doubt be sued in a few years' time by the victim, asking why they did not appeal against a particular award of, say, two-and-a-half thousand pounds. I know somebody who received £15,000, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, just demonstrated. Therefore, a multiplicity of sexual abuse cases are pursued through the board and take up a lot of time. No doubt other areas of life might be excluded from this scheme, but that is a matter for debate on another day or night as the case may be. Certainly, sexual abuse cases represent one of the most difficult areas for adjudication.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page