LEGAL EAGLE: Historic abuse compensation

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I have seen a lot in the press and on social media recently and on the internet about old allegations of sexual abuse carried out by football coaches against children years ago. I am confused by this – compensation claims have been mentioned as well as the possibility of offenders being prosecuted. But isn’t it all too long ago for anything to be done?

You have raised two points – can people be prosecuted by the police for having committed crimes like this? Can victims be compensated?

On the first point: people sometimes talk about “statutes of limitations” time-barring matters. In the criminal law in this country it is actually quite rare for any particular crime to be time-barred for prosecution and such a limitation could be applied only in the case of relatively trivial offences such as for example some driving offences. Certainly for serious crimes like child sexual abuse there is no such limitation.

For compensation claims there are 2 main routes:-

An application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). This is a fund of government money to which people who are the blameless victims of crime can apply to be compensated. The time limit for an application to the CICA scheme is normally two years from the date of the offence BUT for people aged under 18 when the offence happened the position is different. The scheme says that if the crime was reported to the police before the applicant’s 18th birthday then the CICA must receive the application for compensation within the period ending on the applicant’s 20th birthday. If the police report is first made AFTER the applicant turns 18 then the application has to be made within two years after the date of the first report to the police.

Victims can bring compensation proceedings in the civil courts either against the offender or in appropriate circumstances against employers of the offender or others with whom the offender was connected who knew what was going on or should have known what was going on. The law generally allows three years for a claim to be brought BUT that time limit begins to run only when the victim turns 18 AND in appropriate circumstances the courts system has the discretion – the choice – to allow the case to proceed even if on the face of it the claim is out of time. In cases of this kind the courts often do decide to let matters go ahead.

l Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist historic abuse Solicitors that can advise you on issues including historic physical and sexual assault. To speak to a Solicitor in confidence please ring 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.