Successful Judicial Review for historic rape victim

woman looking out to sea at sunset

Digby Brown Solicitors has successfully challenged a Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) decision which stopped a rape victim receiving compensation.

The woman fell pregnant and gave birth to a son after being raped in 1965 and, after spending decades coming to terms with what happened, found the courage to notify the police in 2013.

CICA refused to pay compensation because the incident wasn’t reported within two years of the rape occurring.

However Kim Leslie, Partner at the firm and head of our Non-Accidental Unit, challenged the decision at a special hearing where a judge agreed to a review of the compensation refusal.

Kim said: “One can only imagine the courage it took this woman to report her abuser after suffering in silence for all these years – only to then feel helpless again because of red-tape.

“It is in cases like this where independent legal advice from experienced solicitors can make all the difference.”

The legal challenge

When the attack happened, our client (known as MM) lived in a small religious community where rape victims were often blamed and stigmatised. As she also gave birth to a child outside of marriage she felt even more like a shamed outcast. MM remained at home but felt cut off socially for years which only worsened her deep psychological and emotional trauma.

Over the years MM forged a life for herself by securing a job, a university degree after studying part-time and even went on to marry and have two more children. It wasn’t until reporting the incident to the police and speaking with a support charity that MM realised she could make a claim for compensation.

CICA is a government body which provides compensation for innocent victims of violent crime. Its rules state that victims need to have already reported the incident to the police and make their application within two years of the incident – however a claims officer may extend this time frame if they agree there were exceptional circumstances which caused a delay.

However CICA refused to pay – it said there were no exceptional circumstances for MM to make a late claim and the life she later made for herself suggested she wasn’t seriously traumatised. This refusal was appealed but again refused.

A second appeal was made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal but despite finding MM to be credible and reliable, it also rejected her application.

A third appeal was then made at an appeal court called the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) but this was also rejected as it agreed with CICA’s reasons for rejecting the claim.

Success

Despite the failed appeals, Digby Brown continued to campaign on behalf of MM – so our solicitors brought the case before a judge at a special hearing called a Judicial Review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

We argued that both CICA and the FTT refusals were wrong on the grounds that our client DID have exceptional circumstances that caused a delay in her application: MM had no prior knowledge of the CICA scheme; MM’s social circumstances at the time of the rape and lack of support led to the delay in reporting to the police (the silence of the victim is often an inherent feature of rape); and MM suffered deep emotional and psychological trauma.

After hearing our evidence, and evidence from CICA, the judge agreed the FTT should reconsider MM’s appeal.

The successful Judicial Review means the door has now been opened for MM to overturn CICA’s refusal to pay her compensation.

This result shows the importance in seeking independent legal advice from expert, compassionate and persistent solicitors. At Digby Brown, we hope this result means other historic abuse victims may be granted the chance to overturn CICA claims that were originally rejected.