Historic abuse victims set to be recognised by law

Victims of abuse carried out more than four decades ago will soon be given the same legal rights as other victims.

Until now, victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse by someone they lived with could only claim compensation if the abuse happened after 1979.  The government is expected to rectify the anomaly with a long overdue change in the law this autumn.

Vincents Solicitors’ Cath Pearson, a highly experienced personal injury lawyer, welcomes a change which will finally give victims the respect and support they have long deserved.

“The law is finally recognising victims of historic abuse in the home, by ensuring those who suffered violence or assault can now make a claim for compensation.

"The ‘same roof’ rule prohibited victims of these crimes committed before 1979 from claiming compensation if they lived with their attacker at the time. This meant that wives, husbands and children who lived with someone who abused them physically or sexually were effectively told by the legal system that they were less of a victim than any other.

“Abuse committed after 1979 has long been considered ‘criminal injury’ and victims are therefore able to claim. Many thousands of people abused prior to then have suffered in silence for decades and missed out on compensation that should have been paid to them years ago.

“To be clear, this doesn’t relate to seeking a criminal conviction, there is no intrusive open court process to endure. This is about financial compensation being provided through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, something all victims of violent crime have the right to claim.

“This particular change in the law is very welcome, and seeks to rectify a situation which in effect said the abuse was acceptable, finally recognising what these victims endured, finally saying ‘we believe you, we are sorry this happened to you’.

“Any abuse is obviously horrific for the victim but it is particularly insidious when conducted in the home, a place which is meant to be safe, by a family member or guardian. To be refused the right to claim compensation because that person lived with you, or because it took place before 1979, adds untold layers to that trauma.

“We understand that many victims won’t want to re-live what happened all those years ago. They may fear having to face their abuser, which could put them off pursuing a claim. But, because this is a civil claim not a criminal case, there is no court appearance or cross examination, and no need to rake up traumatic memories in public.

“As experienced personal injury solicitors, we help victims every day in as sensitive and supportive way as possible. We are offering victims the opportunity to come and talk to us for an informal conversation, we can provide advice and assistance and hold their hand throughout the process.

“I am extremely pleased that the government has, at last, seen fit to amend a horrendous error in policy which will have added to the suffering of many victims. Now their rights and the crimes against them are to be recognised and their suffering addressed, and finally they can claim the same rights that other victims have had enshrined for so long.”