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"Same roof" rule to go in criminal injuries compensation review

18 September 2018

The "same roof" rule, which prevents a claim for criminal injuries compensation where the victim and offender are members of the same household, is to be abolished as part of a review of the compensation scheme.

Justice Secretary David Gauke has ordered the review to improve access to compensation, and to consider how the scheme might better serve victims, especially victims of child sexual abuse and terrorism. Beginning immediately, the review is expected to report in 2019 with recommendations for reform.

Part of the original 1964 compensation scheme introduced in 1964, the "same roof" rule was changed in 1979, but this was not made retrospective. Applying to all victims of abuse, physical or sexual, inflicted by a family member living under the same roof, it was intended to avoid difficulties with evidence in such cases, and to ensure that offenders did not benefit from compensation paid to the victim they were living with.

The amended rule gives the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority greater discretion in such cases, which has significantly reduced the number of applicants who are refused compensation. However in July this year the Court of Appeal, in a case brought by a woman claiming historic abuse by her stepfather, found that the pre-1979 rule unlawfully discriminated against the applicant. The Government decided to not appeal this ruling and confirmed it would consult on changes to the scheme.
Abolishing the rule will require secondary legislation.

The review will look at concerns around the eligibility rules of the scheme, the sustainability of the scheme and the affordability of any changes to be made. Issues include:

  • Time limits for applications – the requirement that applications be made by a person over 18 as soon as practicable and no later than two years after the date of the incident, means that victims of child sex abuse, who disproportionately delay reporting such crimes and applications for compensation, are liable to miss out on compensation.
  • Unspent convictions – the scheme automatically excludes an award if the applicant has an unspent conviction which resulted in a specified sentence. It is suggested the rules disproportionately impact vulnerable victims of child sex abuse who may have offended in response to being abused/exploited/groomed.
  • Crime of violence– the scheme sets out what constitutes a crime of violence for the purposes of assessing entitlement to compensation. It is suggested that this definition should be broadened to include sexual exploitative behaviour, such as grooming.
  • Terrorism - the terrorist attacks of last year left people with serious life changing injuries and brought to light questions about the suitability of the scheme in providing support to victims of terrorism. The review will consider and clarify the eligibility, entitlement and amount of compensation to be awarded, building on the rollout of the Victims of Terrorism Unit last year. 

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