Catholic Church and local authorities criticised for claiming child sex abuse victims

first_imgThe Catholic Church and local authorities have been criticised after trying to claim child sex abuse victims “consented” in a bid to avoid compensation payouts.Lawyers who represent some of the victims have told the Sunday Telegraph that the defence is more frequently being used by private schools, religious groups and local authorities when trying to defend compensation claims.  The revelation comes after news that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, a Government agency, was denying some children compensation because it said they had “consented” to abuse – even if they were of an age where they could not do so legally. Siobhán Crawford, of London-based firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, one of the largest firms in the field, said the defence is normally used where a child turns 16 during the abuse.She said the firm had dealt with ten such cases, and there had been an increase in the past two years as authorities became aware that it was an option.For adults in a position of authority, it is illegal to have sex with a child under their care, even if the child is 16 or 17 at the time. Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “No child ever gives their ‘consent’ to being abused, and the increased use of this line of defence, although still quite rare, is worrying.”I have contacted the Ministry of Justice previously and again recently about this issue and the Government should look urgently at what can be done to tackle it.” The Sunday Telegraph has seen documents for two cases where the defence was employed. One claimant was told by lawyers for the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark that his abuse, which included rape and began when he was 15, “actually occurred in the context of a consensual relationship (albeit one the Claimant in retrospect now appears to regret)”. The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told this newspaper that the use of the defence felt “insulting”. “I was below the legal age of consent anyway and there’s a grooming element to that kind of situation. It was totally disregarded and it made me feel really small,” he said. The case was eventually settled for £80,000. In another case, a pupil was making a claim following sexual abuse by her teacher. The abuse began when she was under 16 and continued into adulthood. The local authority, Cambridgeshire County Council, claimed in defence documents that it was not liable for abuse which took place after the age of 16.It said: “On her own account the Claimant voluntarily sought out contact with [the teacher] and considered that she was in a relationship with him. If that is correct, after she had obtained the age of 16, the Claimant consented to sexual acts with [the teacher] and those acts ceased to be assaults.”The pupil eventually received £550,000 in compensation from the authority. In a statement a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Southwark said that “out of respect for each claimant’s privacy and the confidentiality of the legal process, the Archdiocese does not comment on individual case”, but added that it “supports the right of anyone who has suffered harm to seek compensation. Such claims are complex and often involve a number of difficult legal issues.”A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said the abuse was “deeply regrettable” and added: “We would like to say once again, how sorry we are to the woman involved in this case. “We have already faced up to our responsibilities for this historic case and made a full compensation payment of £550,000 without putting the victim through the additional trauma of a court case.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Teenagers who murdered vulnerable woman apply to extend anonymity

The issue will go before the High Court next month, where their legal teams will argue the media’s ban on reporting their identities should be extended.The current interim injunction applies to media reports, and all other internet postings.During the original trial it emerged that the older of the two girls had attempted suicide on four occasions once in the court lavatory where she had tried to strangle herself with her own hair. Angela Wrightson died following a sustained attack in her home Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Angela Wrightson died following a sustained attack in her home The judge praised a female member of the court staff saying her quick actions had literally saved the girl’s life.The judge revealed that the younger girl had also been self-harming during the trial.During the murder, which is believed to have taken place over a five hour period, the girls posted images of themselves laughing on social media.They later called the police to ask for a lift home and posted an image of themselves laughing in the back of the police van.The court heard the Miss Wrightson would have suffered considerable mental and physical pain during what was described as an attack of “gratuitous degradation.”She was hit with a shovel, a TV, a coffee table and a stick studded with screws after she let the girls into her home. Two teenage girls who beat a frail and vulnerable woman to death during an attack of “gratuitous degradation” are taking legal action to prevent their identities being made public.The teenagers were aged 13 and 14 when they were jailed for life with a minimum of 15-years in 2016 for the murder of 39-year-old Angela Wrightson, in her Hartlepool home.Sentencing them Mr Justice Globe condemned their actions as “cowardly” as he revealed that Miss Wrightson had suffered 70 separate slash injuries and more than 50 blows to the head as she had desperately tried to defend herself.But the judge banned the media from naming the pair on the grounds that being identified could lead to their suicide.Now legal teams for the killers have obtained an interim injunction extending their anonymity, although one of them has turned 18. read more