The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its report into Accountability and Reparations which focuses on the aftermath of child sexual abuse and the legal process of claiming compensation.
The report found that neither the criminal or civil justice system is able to effectively deliver the redress that victims and survivors seek, with many finding the processes baffling, frustrating, hostile and futile.
During 15 days of public hearings, the Inquiry heard from 40 witnesses including insurance brokers, lawyers, police officers and survivors.
While some survivors said no amount of money could make up for what they had been through, others wanted financial compensation to recognise the abuse and to compensate for lost education or unfulfilled careers. Many simply sought acknowledgement or an apology from the institution where the abuse took place, while others spoke of having their “day in court”.
Many became embroiled in litigation with insurers which spanned decades or felt they were treated unfairly in court.
Some successfully proved their case on the facts but were ultimately turned down due to the law of limitation, which puts a time limit on historical claims.
The Inquiry report made three specific recommendations in relation to the insurance industry:
1. The Local Government Association and the Association of British Insurers should each produce codes of practice for responding to civil claims of child sexual abuse.
The codes should include recognition of the long-term emotional and psychiatric or psychological effects of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors, and acknowledgement that these effects may make it difficult for victims and survivors to disclose that they have been sexually abused and to initiate civil claims for that abuse.
- The codes should also include guidance that:
- claimants should be treated sensitively throughout the litigation process;
- the defence of limitation should only be used in exceptional circumstances;
- single experts jointly instructed by both parties should be considered for the assessment of the claimants’ psychiatric, psychological or physical injuries; and
- wherever possible, claimants should be offered apologies, acknowledgement, redress and support.
2. The Department for Work and Pensions should work with the Association of British Insurers to introduce a national register of public liability insurance policies. The register should provide details of the relevant organisation, the name of the insurer, all relevant contact details, the period of cover, and the insurance limit. These requirements should apply to policies issued and renewed after the commencement of the register, and those against which a claim has already been made.
3. The Financial Conduct Authority should make the necessary regulatory changes to compel insurers that provide public liability insurance to retain and publish details of all current policies.
The International Underwriting Association of London should take the lead in the production of a code for the benefit of claimants who are bringing civil claims for child sexual abuse. The aim should be to produce a code, comparable to the Rehabilitation Code or for inclusion in that code, with the objective of ensuring that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse are able to access the therapy and support they need as soon as possible.