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Wednesday, 08 November 2017

Sexually abused minor receives formal apology after Government agency u-turn

Written by Jennifer Cockerell

A man who was sexually abused by a string of older men from the age of 13 has received a formal apology from the Government's victim compensation agency after it previously ruled he consented to sexual abuse as a child.

The man - known as HND - has also been told he is eligible for compensation, according to the charity Liberty, which represented him.

Twenty-one men were convicted of a range of offences against him, including sexual activity with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and meeting a child after sexual grooming.

Liberty said that when his family applied to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) for compensation on his behalf, the application was rejected and it was ruled that he had consented to the sexual assaults he suffered.

But the CICA's chief executive Carole Oatway has now written to HND, apologising for the way his case was handled and confirming that he is eligible for compensation.

She wrote: "I am firmly of the view that you are eligible for compensation. It is clear that advantage was taken of your age and vulnerability for the purpose of sexual abuse."

HND had appealed against the previous decision, and the case was due to be heard by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal this month before further submissions from Liberty led to the turnaround.

Debaleena Dasgupta (pictured), Liberty lawyer and HND's solicitor, said: "CICA's recognition that HND was not responsible for having been sexually abused is extremely welcome. But it was only at the 11th hour they conceded these appeals - with HND facing the prospect of having to give evidence about his abuse to prove he was a victim even where those responsible had pleaded guilty.

"HND should be extremely proud of having triggered changes that will hopefully stop other children and young people going through this. None of this would have been possible without his tenacity and strength.

"But the Government cannot stop here. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as a whole must now be reviewed and amended to properly support survivors of rape and abuse."

HND's father said: "We are thankful CICA has changed its stance - but it should never have come to this. Having spent years coming to terms with what happened to him and that it was not his fault, my son was told by a state body that it was.

"Child victims deserve better. We hope this decision, and the change in guidance, will help the many others who have suffered unnecessarily under this broken system."

The concession comes within days of the CICA issuing new guidelines on grooming cases to its staff.

Liberty, Barnardo's and Victim Support believe the guidelines will help to protect victims' rights, but have warned they can only interpret a sub-standard system. The groups have called for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as a whole to be reviewed with respect to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.

The CICA launched a review earlier this year amid concerns that victims of child grooming gangs were being refused payments, even when their attacker had been jailed.

Justice Secretary David Lidington told MPs that CICA's internal guidelines were undergoing an urgent re-examination to ensure there was no risk a child could be disqualified because they had been "groomed" into giving consent.

But while the legal age of consent is 16, the Guardian reported that a draft of the revised guidelines stated child abuse victims could still be denied compensation on the grounds that "consent 'in fact' is different from consent 'in law'."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Liberty.