INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Accountability and Reparations Hearing
November 2018 to December 2018
Closing Statement by David Greenwood on behalf of Core Participant Peter Robson
- Mr Robson is a survivor physical and sexual abuse at The Stanhope Castle School, having been sent there at the age of 11. He describes it as a brutal place which has left him hating himself and as we saw from his evidence has left him with great difficulties in relating to others. He has diminished life chances, received a poor education and is deserving of compensation. He gave evidence to the police after 2013 but was told that his abuser could not be traced. He was advised by the police to seek Criminal Injuries Compensation and did so when he became aware of this Inquiry and was advised to do so by Howe & Co. His Criminal Injuries Compensation Application has been refused and it is only after a review that he has recently been awarded Criminal Injuries Compensation.
- He has been advised on a potential Civil Claim but at present feels that the process would be so long, complicated and arduous that he does not wish to put himself through it.
- Quite apart from apologies and bringing abusers and those who have enabled them to account this Inquiry has revealed serious deficiencies with our compensation system.
- Criminal Compensation Orders through the Criminal Courts are rarely ordered by Judges.
- Criminal Injuries Compensation is difficult to access. Form filling puts off the uneducated. Lawyers take a cut. Time limits are usually invoked by the Criminal Injuries Compensation. Convictions (often brought about as a result of responses to abuse and bad treatment in childhood) are used to defeat applications. Review and Appeal procedures are complicated and time limited. There is no integrated system of support. There is no free advice service.
- Civil Compensation are inherently difficult. Changes to the Law in 2013 mean that Lawyers again take a cut and Legal Aid is usually unavailable. Limitation Laws are interpreted by inexperienced Judges who have absolute discretion. Most Defendants fight cases by using Limitation as a weapon. There have been no moves by Parliament to change the system. Claimants’ credibility is attacked during the exploration by Defendants of prejudice. To even consider that prejudice to a Defendant could outweigh the prejudice to a Claimant survivor of child sex abuse of not being able to bring a claim does claimants a massive injustice. The legal bar on limitation should be scrapped. It has caused substantial confusion and unnecessary misery. Claims should be decided on whether the abuse occurred. To add further insult psychiatrists unsympathetic to Claimants are deployed to attack Claimants’ credibility.
- Success is often dependent on which insurer an institution is insured with. Lambeth, Liverpool, National Children’s Home and Devon Council settled their cases. Conversely RSA rarely settle cases unless they have exhausted all legal avenues.
- The process is attritional. Many hear about it like Mr. Robson and decide not to pursue it. Many drop out during the process.
- Overall it is a lottery as to which opponent is insured with which insurance company and also a lottery in terms of the attitude of the Defendant. Councils tend to see the justice in recognising that compensating victims should be a priority. Insurers generally don’t There are exceptions such as Ecclesiastical and sometimes Zurich. It should be said that the quality of claimant lawyers also varies.
- All this is confusing to claimants. It needs to be simplified. The system is not fair. It needs to be fair
- The solution is for the establishment of a scheme which incorporates the following features;
- The eligibility for compensation is decided on the balance of probabilities.
- Time limits will not be in play.
- Damages are assessed broadly, taking into account how life chances have been affected.
- Claimants can be signposted to good local support agencies and support can be paid for and provided quickly.
- The abuser or the institution will pay for the compensation paid to the Claimant.
- Where non-institutional abuse is considered, payments will be underwritten by the Government (these cases falling out of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme).
- Lawyers will be paid to advise on cases and help guide Claimants through the process.
- There will be an appeals system.
- Institutions will be required to consider providing an apology and will be required to make a statement of what steps are now in place to prevent child abuse in their organisation.
- The Body will have the power to compel disclosure of evidence.
- Claimants will have the option of taking their case through the Civil Courts but without double recovery.
- I have put together a draft scheme which will be emailed to the Inquiry Solicitors for distribution. I hope you will read and consider the draft.
- David Greenwood
- 12 December 2018