The Government has (6 April 2020) issued a formal response to the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in their Accountability and Reparations report which was published towards the end of last year.
IICSA’s report followed public hearings taking evidence from 40 witnesses over a period of 15 days from November 2018 and January 2019 and examined the current systems (the civil justice, criminal compensation and support services) to determine whether they provide effective accountability, reparation and support to victims of child sexual abuse. The report also produced recommendations as to these systems can be improved. Phase 2 of the investigation is now underway and will provide a further report in due course.
To see our previous update from 19 September 2019/for more information on IICSA’s recommendations please click here.
The Government responded to recommendations 1, 3, 4 and 6 of the IICSA’s Accountability and Reparations Investigation Report.
IICSA recommendation: Revision of the Victims’ Code to provide better signposting for victims of child sexual abuse towards civil and criminal compensation and support services.
Government response: The Government are currently consulting with criminal justice agencies on a revised Victim’s Code with a consultation on passing and implementing a Victims’ Law. Steps which have already been implemented include funding for more Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs) and specialist trauma training for staff in the Criminal injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) to ensure they are able to deal with cases sensitively.
Plexus comment: In theory better signposting and more ISVAs should ensure that victims of abuse are aware of their legal rights and the possibility of bringing civil claims for compensation. Whilst this could mean that more civil claims are pursued in the future, it should also ensure that claims are pursued in a more timely manner in a way which is fair for all parties.
IICSA recommendation: Introduce legislation to facilitate apologies, offers of treatment and other redress to victims by institutions that may be vicariously liable for the actions or omissions of others.
Government response: The Government has confirmed that Section 2 of the Compensation Act 2006 was intended to reflect existing law and encourage institutions not to be deterred from offering apologies, treatment or redress. The Government has acknowledged that apologies can have a positive impact for victims and have agreed to explore whether the Compensation Act should be amended to facilitate better use of apologies and other forms of redress.
Plexus comment: A lot of organisations would welcome the option to make apologies and other statements in relation to historic incidents safe in the knowledge that doing so does not amount to an admission of liability. To the extent that this positively impacts the health and wellbeing of victims of child sexual abuse this can only be a good thing. The value of an apology is often tempered however by the fact that institutions and their insurers may be being asked to apologise for incidents which they are far removed from in time and place.
IICSA recommendation: DWP should work with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to introduce a national register of public liability insurance policies.
Government response: At present, there is no statutory requirement for someone to have public liability insurance. The Government is currently in discussion with the ABI on the feasibility of establishing a public liability register.
Plexus comment: It will be important for insurers to stay aware of any developments around this recommendation as the introduction of a national register could lead to regulatory changes which insurers will need to comply with. The practical impact for historic claims could be limited as it seems unlikely that a register could be made retrospective.
IICSA recommendation: Increased use of Criminal Compensation Orders (CCOs) in the criminal courts including new guidance for the judiciary and prosecutors.
Government response: The Government, following consultation with relevant bodies, has taken a collective view that the current guidance for the judiciary and prosecutors in the Crown and Magistrates Courts is sufficient. However, the Government recognises that the Courts make a low number of CCOs in child sexual abuse cases and has committed to exploring the reasons for this and whether any steps should be taken.
Plexus comment: Insurers are likely to get behind CCOs if this sees victims being compensated directly by perpetrators as opposed to bringing civil claims against institutions. Unfortunately, as there are no changes planned for the current system an immediate increase in the use of CCOs seems unlikely.
If CCOs are to be become more widespread, further guidance will be needed on the interplay between CCOs, CICA awards and civil claims. Where victims have received a CCO and subsequently bring a civil claim against an institution it seems sensible for any CCO to be taken into account. Insurers and institutions should also be aware of their rights to pursue perpetrators for a contribution/indemnity where they have dealt with civil claims arising out of a perpetrator’s actions.
As ever, it is important for institutions and their insurers to remain informed of any developments and planned reforms. Phase 2 of IICSA’s Accountability and Reparations investigation remains ongoing and their further recommendations on reforms to limitation for abuse cases will be published in due course. It will be interesting to see whether IICSA comments on the Government’s response.
We will of course keep you updated as and when further developments occur. In the meantime please do not hesitate to contact the Plexus Sensitive Claims and Abuse Team if you have any questions about the impact of IICSA and the Government response for your organisation or business.
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If you would like to know more about this matter, please speak to your contacts at Plexus Law:
Andrew Caplan, Partner
T: 01245 951 730 | M: 07790 929 690 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Prestidge, Partner
T: 01245 951 726 | M: 07790 341 706 | E: email@example.com
Marlon Ellis, Solicitor
T: 01245 951 715 | M: 07790 437 367 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org