Many survivors of abuse will wish to explore the possibility of claiming financial compensation from their abuser, irrespective of whether their abuser has been convicted of a criminal offence. The options available are discussed below and the Child Abuse team at Switalskis have extensive experience in dealing with these claims.
Bringing a civil claim
A civil claim, which is a claim for financial redress, can either be brought against the individual abuser or against an institution such as a local authority, the police or a school for failing to protect you from the abuse when they had a duty of care to do so. In both circumstances, a claim would be brought for damages (financial compensation), with the intention of putting you, as the claimant, in the financial position you would have been in had you not suffered abuse, in so far as this is reasonably possible. Your immediate thought is probably ‘how can you put a price on child abuse?’ and we would echo this, however, our legal system aims to properly compensate survivors taking into account the abuse itself and how their life has been impacted as a result of the abuse that they suffered.
Most survivors understandably want to bring a claim against their abuser but this is less common as they would need to have assets in order to compensate you which they often do not. We would, of course, explore this with you before determining the best course of action in your case.
The timescales when pursuing civil claims can vary greatly depending on what evidence is available, what further evidence is required and how co-operative the defendant is. These claims can often take many years to be resolved and will sometimes require the involvement of external experts such as psychologists who may need to interview you and prepare a psychological report. As part of the civil claim process, we will usually obtain documentation such as social care records, medical records and police records. These records will help us determine the prospects of succeeding in your case and also how the abuse has impacted you.
Although it is not vital that the abuser has been criminally convicted in order to pursue a civil claim, cases in which a criminal investigation has taken place and resulted in a conviction are much stronger and more likely to succeed. We would therefore always recommend that survivors report the abuse to the police.
A civil claim should be brought (i.e. issued at court) within three years of the abuse taking place, or if the abuse took place when you were a child, the claim should be brought by your 21st birthday (three years after reaching majority). In many cases, survivors come forward and speak out about their abuse many years later, due to the stigma surrounding this kind of abuse and the mental health issues which often, understandably, develop as a result of the abuse. The courts have some degree of discretion when it comes to time limits, and it is possible that a claim can still be brought some years later if this is fair to both parties. If you are thinking about pursuing a claim for child abuse compensation, it is therefore important that you contact a solicitor as soon as you feel able to do so.
Making a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
At Switalskis we are also able to help survivors apply for compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (“CICA”). The CICA is a scheme run by the government and is intended to be a last resort and therefore used once the possibility of a civil claim has been ruled out. A claim should be made within 2 years of the date of the incident itself, unless the claim relates to historical sexual abuse, in which case the 2 year time limit will start running once the abuse has been reported to the police. It is possible to make a CICA application whilst there is an ongoing civil claim, however this will likely be placed on hold by the CICA until the civil claim is resolved, but making the application will stop the clock on the 2 year time limit.
When dealing with historical sexual abuse claims, the CICA will make a decision based on the evidence and the applicant’s cooperation with the police. It is therefore important that the applicant cooperates fully with the police and makes the application as soon as possible. At Switalskis we have a wealth of experience of dealing with CICA claims.
Making a Complaint
Alternatively, if you do not wish to pursue a civil claim or a CICA claim or if you are unable to do so, you may wish to make a complaint to the relevant institution such as the police or social services. This can be done using the internal complaints procedure for the relevant local authority, or by making a report to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman or regulatory body. More information regarding making a complaint about social care services can be found on the Citizens Advice website.
Whilst this would not result in a financial award if your complaints are upheld it may offer you a sense of justice being achieved and also assist in raising awareness hopefully leading to lessons being learned and a better future for the generations to come.
The Truth Project
Another option for assisting future generations is to report what happened to you to The Truth Project which is part of the Government’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and allows survivors to share their experiences to enable The Truth Project to recommend changes to protect children from abuse. With your consent, The Truth Project will use the details of your experience as part of their research and to inform the general public about the effects of child sexual abuse. The Truth Project concludes in 2021 and survivors are therefore being encouraged to take part as soon as possible and register their interest before 31 July 2021. If you wish to take part, you can share your experience via telephone, video call or in writing – for more details, visit https://www.truthproject.org.uk/i-will-be-heard.
Operation Winter Key
As part of the Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse, investigative teams have been set up within the Metropolitan Police to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse in particular areas. Operation Winter Key is the investigative team dealing with historical child sexual abuse. If you are a survivor of historical childhood abuse and wish to report this to the police, you can contact Operation Winter Key using the following details:
Telephone – 020 8217 6582