An information sheet detailing different ways that it may be possible for survivors to claim compensation including the government-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation (CICA) scheme, with links to other organisations that may be able to support with this, and information about finding a suitable solicitor if necessary.
This guide has been produced by Lifecentre to help survivors of sexual violence and abuse to consider their options and to equip them with information so they are empowered to make their own decisions.
This fact sheet does not contain any legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for accessing independent legal advice.
Q: How can I claim compensation if I have been the victim of sexual violence/abuse?
A: Not everyone will be eligible, but in certain circumstances, survivors are able to claim compensation for abuse they have suffered either as a child or as an adult.
There are two main routes to claiming compensation if you have been the victim of sexual violence or abuse which are outlined below:
- If you have reported the abuse you experienced to the Police, regardless of whether the person was charged, or whether they were found guilty in Court, then you may be eligible to claim compensation via the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
- This is a scheme set up by the government to compensate victims of serious violent and sexual crimes.
- The process for applying is straightforward and you do not need to be represented by a solicitor in most cases. We will talk about CICA in more depth further on in this guide.
- If you have not reported to the Police, you will not be able to make a claim from CICA.
- The other possible route to claiming compensation is to make a personal injury claim. Most commonly, this is a claim against an organisation or institution that can be held liable for what happened. For example, if someone was abused by a teacher or another member of staff at their school, it might be possible to make a claim against either the school itself or the Local Education Authority.
- If someone was abused by a priest or other religious leader, the church or religious institution concerned might be held liable. If someone was abused whilst they were a member of a sports team or club, by their coach, the team or club who employed the coach might be held liable. It is unlikely that you will be able to make a claim directly against the person who perpetrated the abuse unless they have very significant personal wealth and assets.
- Making a personal injury claim regardless of who it is against is very complex, and you need to be represented by a solicitor who specialises in personal injury claims to do this.
- Not everyone will be able to make this type of claim, it depends very much on the circumstances, and only a specialist solicitor can advise whether you will be able to make such a claim.
- There is more information about how to find a suitable solicitor later in this factsheet.
Q: I did report to the Police, so how do I go about claiming from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)?
- Firstly, if you had an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) supporting you through the criminal case, they should be able to assist you with CICA, talk you through the process, and answer any questions you have.
- If you did not have support from an ISVA, Victim Support may also be able to assist you and have some support videos and an interactive guide available online. Go to https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/criminal-injuries-compensation/ for more information.
- If your criminal case has ended, the Investigating Police Officer in the case may also be able to give you some basic information about the scheme. If you are planning to apply independently without support, you can find the official guide to the scheme here:
Q: Will I be eligible for a CICA award and how is it assessed?
- There are some strict time limits in place for applying to CICA, which need to be adhered to. If the crime happened when you were an adult, you should apply within 2 years of it happening. There are different rules if the crime happened before your 18th birthday depending on whether the crime was reported to the Police before your 18th birthday or not. If it was reported after you turned 18, you have 2 years to apply from when you reported. If it was reported to the police before you turned 18, then you have until your 20th birthday to claim.
- Parents can make claims on behalf of their child if the child has experienced sexual abuse that has been reported to the Police. If there are very good reasons why you were unable to apply within the time limits, you can still apply, and explain those reasons to CICA, but please be aware there is no guarantee that they will accept the reasons and assess your award.
- Not everyone will be able to claim compensation and not everyone will be eligible for the full award. There are other conditions you have to satisfy such as; you need to be ordinarily resident in the UK, the incident needs to have happened in England, Scotland, or Wales, you need to have co-operated with the Police in bringing the assailant to justice as far as possible, you need to co-operate with CICA in assessing your claim, and CICA will also consider your own criminal record if you have one, taking certain unspent criminal convictions into account when assessing any award, and also your conduct at the time of the incident in certain particular circumstances.
- All this information is available in full in the guide referred to above plus there is more information on the Victim Support web page as above.
- CICA is a tariff-based scheme; payments are awarded on the basis of a ‘tariff’ of injuries where a set amount is paid for different injuries that a person is found to have experienced.
- The perpetrator does not need to have been convicted of the offences you reported to the Police; the Police evidence plus any additional evidence you have and any medical evidence available will be examined by CICA and assessed ‘on the balance of probabilities’ which means more likely to have happened than not.
- This is a lower evidence threshold than for criminal cases which is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
- For this reason, CICA advises that people should not wait until the outcome of a criminal case before applying.
- Most people can apply to CICA without a solicitor. It is an online form that is relatively straightforward to complete and most of the evidence CICA needs will be gathered from the Police and/or your GP with your consent.
- However, if you feel that your case is particularly complex you could consider an initial consultation with a solicitor which should be provided free of charge.
Q: How can I find a suitable solicitor?
- It is worth doing some research and having initial conversations with several different firms of solicitors before you decide who is right for you.
- Most claims are funded on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
- Legal aid is not usually available for personal injury claims.
- If the case is funded on a no-win, no-fee basis, then you will need to agree to pay the solicitor a fee, usually around 15-20% of whatever compensation you get, and you will also have to pay for an insurance premium, payable out of your compensation if it is awarded, to cover costs in the event of your case being unsuccessful.
- It is important to find someone that has experience of bringing successful claims in cases similar to yours, so it might be a good idea to ask questions about this when you first contact them.
- The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) www.childabuselawyers.com can be a good place to start your search.
- Most solicitors offer a free initial consultation where they hear about your case and give you information about what services they could offer, and what your chances of success are.
- You could do more than one initial consultation, to find the right person for you, but please bear in mind that you would need to tell each solicitor you meet at least an outline of what happened to you, and the abuse you experienced, in order for them to assess the case, which could be triggering and re-traumatising.
- If the solicitors do not think your case is likely to be successful, they are unlikely to take you on as a client, because their payment usually depends upon the case being successful.
Q: What is involved in making a personal injury claim through a solicitor?
- Once you have chosen your solicitor and completed all of the necessary paperwork regarding the way the case is funded, and they have confirmed that they are happy to take you on as a client, they will ask you to sign consent forms so that they can access all available sources of evidence about the case.
- If you have reported to the Police they will obtain a written consent form from you to access all the information the Police hold about your case. They may also obtain records from GP, schools, local authorities, and any other organisation relevant to the case e.g. a Church, Youth Club. The reason for this is they need to compile as much evidence as possible about what happened to you.
- The solicitor will send a ‘letter of claim’ to the relevant organisation or person, who will usually be represented by their own solicitors, often their insurer’s solicitors. They respond to the claim, and the process is dealt with from then on by communication between the two sets of lawyers.
- The process can be lengthy – up to three years is not uncommon – and it can be difficult to find out what is happening with your case. You could ask your solicitor from the outset to make an agreement with you about how often they will contact you, for example, every three months, if this would help you to manage the process.
- Part of the process commonly experienced as difficult and stressful by survivors making a civil claim is the Expert Medical Report. If you are making a civil claim, you will at some stage need to undergo an assessment with a medical expert, usually a psychiatrist or sometimes a psychologist, who will interview you and then prepare a report which is sent to all the solicitors involved in the case, and to you.
- The doctor will ask you detailed questions about your life, often going back to childhood. They will also examine your medical records and may ask you questions about them. They will ask questions about the abuse you experienced.
- The purpose of the report is to assess the impact that the abuse has had on all areas of your life, for example on your physical and mental health, your career, your family, and your relationships, so that a ‘value’ can be placed on the claim.
- Many survivors find this process stressful and upsetting, and it may trigger painful thoughts and feelings. You may feel that you need to have some additional support available, whether from a professional or from friends and family, as you go through the process for this reason.
Q: Will I need to go to Court?
- Most personal injury claims are dealt with without any need for a Court hearing. They are dealt with by way of out-of-court settlements. However, if there are issues in dispute, your solicitor may advise that court proceedings must be issued. Even then, it is still unlikely that the matter will be heard in Court, as again there is the possibility of settling out of court before an actual hearing.
- Occasionally however a Court hearing is necessary to settle the issues in dispute. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on this further.
- If your claim is successful, any compensation is given first to your solicitor, they deduct their fee and any other deductions necessary before paying the remainder to you.
- If you are in receipt of means-tested benefits and you are awarded compensation which is more than the amount of savings you are permitted to have, (usually £6,000), then this is likely to affect your benefits. There are ways you can mitigate the impact of this, for example by setting up a trust; your solicitor, financial advisor, or Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to advise further about this.
If you would like to have an initial discussion with a solicitor, Lifecentre is able to put you in contact with Irwin Mitchell, a firm of solicitors who specialise in this area.
Please contact the office at email@example.com or 01243 786349 if you would like more details about this.
Lifecentre has a connection with Irwin Mitchell but does not recommend their services over any other law firm.
For more information about Irwin Mitchell and their team of specialist abuse lawyers, visit https://www.irwinmitchell.com/personal/personal-injury-compensation