Sexually abused children as young as 12 could still be denied compensation on the grounds they had “consented” under revised official guidelines revealed yesterday that were condemned by a Labour MP as “despicable.”
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) launched a review into its guidelines earlier this year amid concerns that victims of child grooming gangs were being refused payments, even when perpetrators had been imprisoned.
Although it is illegal to have sex with anyone under 16, CICA does not give payments to all victims.
Justice Secretary David Lidington told MPs last week that CICA’s internal guidelines would be changed so that victims of child grooming gangs could no longer be disqualified from the scheme.
But the revised guidelines state that children can still be denied compensation on the basis that “consent ‘in fact’ is different from consent ‘in law’.”
The draft is reported to state: “The scheme recognises that there may be situations where a person aged under 16 has ‘in fact’ consented to sexual activity.
“Where the sexual activity is truly of the applicant’s free will no crime of violence will have occurred.”
It goes on to say that some children under the age of 12 could be deemed to have given consent.
“Where the child was 12 or under when the incident happened, we will presume that the child did not consent in fact unless the evidence to the contrary is very clear,” it states.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said the revised version was “despicable” and urged Mr Lidington to intervene.
“It’s basically saying that the state doesn’t believe you, that you’re likely to be a liar on this and that is entirely the wrong message to send out,” she blasted.
It emerged last week that Sammy Woodhouse, a victim of the Rotherham grooming gang scandal, had initially been denied compensation by the government body because it claimed she had consented.
Ms Woodhouse, whose evidence in court helped convict her attacker, described the revised guidelines as “absolutely disgusting.”
In response to the backlash, CICA said it was engaging with victim support groups and charities to ensure the revised guidance was “as robust as it possibly can be.”
“We want to be sure that we never get these decisions wrong. That’s why we are reviewing our staff guidance to make sure that we identify every instance where grooming could be a factor,” a spokesman said.
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