Don’t deny online child abuse victims compensation, Gauke told
Child victims of online sex grooming are being denied compensation because the government does not acknowledge it as a violent offence, the justice secretary was told yesterday.
In a letter to David Gauke, MPs and the heads of several children and justice charities argue that until the criminal injuries compensation scheme is amended, “a risk of injustice will remain”.
The campaigners claim that they have overwhelming public support for reform, citing an opinion poll in which two thirds of respondents said the rules should be amended so children cannot be found to have “consented” to sexual exploitation.
The signatories have called on the government to review the definition of a “crime of violence” in the scheme.
The letter says that “as drafted, [that definition] arguably excludes child victims of sexual exploitation if that conduct does not involve physical sexual contact”, meaning that “very serious crimes such as grooming and/or exploiting children to perform sexual acts online are not compensated, even for children under the age of 13”.
The letter, signed by the Labour MP Sarah Champion and the Conservative MP Iain Stewart, says that children groomed for online sexual activity “are no less victims of child sexual exploitation, and the effects for them can be just as serious as for those who have been physically abused”.
The MPs are calling on the Ministry of Justice to amend the scheme to expand the definition of a crime of violence “to include all acts of child sexual exploitation”.
They also point out that the same roof rule prevents those who were living with their abusers as a member of the same family at the time of an assault from receiving compensation if the offence took place before October 1, 1979.
According to the signatories, that rule has meant abuse victims “have often suffered the most serious and appalling of crimes … Many have endured violence in their own homes yet are denied compensation merely because the abuse took place prior to an arbitrary cut-off date”.
The letter was also signed by the heads of Barnado’s, the children’s charity, and Liberty, the civil rights campaigning group, as well as Victim Support, Rape Crisis and NWG, a group that campaigns against child exploitation.