Common sense prevails in historic sexual abuse case

A rejection of a claim due to delay in reporting in a historical sexual abuse has been overturned and compensation awarded.

Victim of child sex abuse wins legal battle over compensation claim

 Source STV
Compensation: Woman wins battle to have compensation claim reconsidered after being abused as child.© STV

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse has won a legal battle to have her claim for criminal injuries compensation reconsidered.

Her bid was earlier rejected by a tribunal which ruled it would have expected earlier disclosure of the offending but a judge held it had erred in law.

The 39-year-old woman was subjected to abuse by a next door neighbour from the ages of eight to 12, but did not report it to police until five years ago.

In 2010 her abuser was jailed for 17 years after he was convicted of sexual offences, including the rape of two young girls, one of whom was the woman.

After reporting the abuse the woman made an application for criminal injuries compensation. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority refused to make an award.

The woman, known only as JM, appealed to a First-Tier Tribunal but a judge there rejected her challenge. However, a judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh has now set aside the tribunal decision made in 2010 and said it should be reconsidered.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby said the tribunal judge had said she would have expected the woman to have reported the matter and sought compensation within about two years of her reaching 18.

The judge said: “Other than 18 being the age of majority there is no reason to select that age to make a disclosure any more than 16 or 20 or 30. There was no evidence before the tribunal judge which entitled her to reach that conclusion.

“On the contrary, those who have presided over trials of historical sex abuse of children are only too aware of the deep psychological and emotional trauma that surrounds such criminal activity.

“In order to carry off such abuse the victim has to be cowed or otherwise subdued into remaining silent. That is a continuing effect of the crime. Disclosure may be made years or even decades after the abuse has ended.”

Lord Boyd continued: “To suggest that this effect disappears once the child has reached adulthood is to misunderstand the pervasive nature of the trauma which victims of childhood sexual abuse invariably suffer.”

The tribunal had noted that there was evidence that the woman had told her brother about the abuse when they were children.

But Lord Boyd said: “In my opinion it is quite irrational to hold that disclosure while she was a child to a sibling who was also a child at the time and was in turn in fear of the abuser should point to the conclusion that it was reasonable to expect her to make the application within two years of her 18th birthday.”

In her compensation application the woman was asked to give reasons why it was not made before and said she ‘didn’t say anything because of fear that my neighbour would kill my parents and I would have to live with him forever.”

She said he had scarred her for life and feared that he may have also abused others.

She said: “I feel guilty I couldn’t come forward before, as it was too hard to talk about it.”

Lord Boyd said it was accepted that there was no direct medical evidence before the tribunal but he added: “I have to say that I find that mildly astonishing in a case such as this where there were clear indications of psychological trauma.”