A LEGAL challenge has been launched in a bid to prevent people who suffered historic sex abuse at the hands of a family member missing out on compensation.
Since the launch of Operation Yewtree, the inquiry launched after abuse claims against Jimmy Savile, more victims of alleged abuse have been coming forward but many are being denied their rightful compensation due to a legal loophole.
Now Teesside Law Clinic, a student-run legal advice clinic at Teesside University, has launched a legal challenge on behalf of a client to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in a bid to secure fair pay-outs for historic sex abuse victims.
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Under the current scheme, compensation is not paid if the criminal injury was sustained before October 1, 1979 and - at the time of the incident - the victim and the perpetrator were living together as members of the same family.
Andrew Perriman, senior lecturer in law at Teesside University, said: “This policy has a recognisable unfairness in that, if the person was a child at the time, the scheme makes a presumption that it is easy for a child to leave the family home to avoid the abuse - clearly that was not the case.”
The client, who is being represented by Teesside Law Clinic and cannot be named for legal reasons, was sexually assaulted and raped by her stepfather who was subsequently jailed for 11 and a half years.
Speaking anonymously she said: “It's not fair to discriminate like this. My case is not about the money, it is about the principle, because this is wrong.
"I am sick of being told, over 30 years, that I'm not worth anything.”
Teesside Law Clinic is arguing that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is discriminatory on the grounds of age and it treats those born prior to 1 October 1979 less favourably than those born after that date.
Third year law students work in Teesside Law Clinic, based in the School of Social Sciences and Law, to give them practical experience of dealing with real cases, under the supervision of professionals.
The first hearing in this case has taken place and Mr Perriman believes it could be the start of a long journey to secure justice and compensation for historic sex abuse victims.
He said: “We believe we have found a legitimate opportunity to challenge the scheme. The students at the Law Clinic have invested a great deal of time in the case and it is something we all believe in.”