The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has today (19 September 2019) published its Investigation Report on Accountability and Reparations for victims and survivors of abuse. This is the first report by IICSA’s Accountability and Reparations investigation since it held 15 days of public hearings between November 2018 and January 2019.
The Accountability and Reparations investigation is tasked with considering whether current systems (including the civil justice system and criminal compensation regime) provide effective accountability and reparation to individuals affected by child sexual abuse. Within this, the investigation is looking at how victims of abuse are compensated and whether other avenues of reparation (including apologies and provision of support) may be useful.
The report makes a number of recommendations which will be of considerable interest to which will be of considerable interest to insurers and organisations that deal with and care for children. The recommendations include:
- Better signposting for victims of child sexual abuse towards civil and criminal compensation and support services
- The Local Government Association and the Association of British Insurers should each produce codes of practice for responding to and handling civil claims arising out of child sexual abuse. The codes should recognise the emotional and psychological effects of child sexual abuse and the difficulties victims may have in disclosing abuse and initiating civil claims
- Legislation should be introduced to facilitate apologies and offers of treatment by institutions who may be vicariously liable for the actions or omissions of others (including the perpetrators of abuse). The report notes that institutions have previously been reluctant to make apologies or fund treatment on the basis that this could subsequently be seen as an admission of responsibility for the actions of someone else
- The Department for Work and Pensions, Association of British Insurers and Financial Conduct Authority should work together to introduce and retain a national register of public liability insurance policies
- The Judicial College’s Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases should be revised to include better guidance on the damages that may be appropriate in civil claims arising out of child sexual abuse
- Wider use of criminal compensation orders (CCOs) at the conclusion of criminal cases involving child sexual abuse
- The International Underwriting Association of London should take the lead in producing a new rehabilitation code for claimants who are bringing civil claims for child sexual abuse. The objective of the code should be ensuring that victims of abuse are able to access the therapy and support they need as soon as possible
In addition to these recommendations the report identifies two issues which will be considered further during the second phase of the Accountability and Reparations investigation:
- Potential reforms to the law of limitation
- The potential for a redress scheme to offer accountability and reparation to victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse
Work on the second phase of the investigation is expected to begin shortly. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 16 October 2019 followed by 3 days of public hearings beginning on 26 November 2019.
The report makes a number of interesting recommendations which hint towards the need for a more empathetic and compassionate civil compensation system. We believe that the majority of individuals who engage with the current system on a regular basis (including organisations working with children and insurance companies and lawyers that represent the interests of such organisations) can support a less adversarial system which deals with the victims of child sexual abuse fairly.
Insurance companies should be aware of the recommendation that organisations should work together to implement a national register of public liability policies. The adoption of such a recommendation could lead to regulatory changes which all insurers will need to comply with.
The most far-reaching recommendations are likely to come after the second phase of the investigation. The Association of British Insurers has now confirmed that it supports changes to the law of limitation and it seems likely that recommendations will be made to reform this area of law to make it easier for individuals affected by child sexual abuse to bring civil claims for compensation many years after the index events. As things stand, survivors of abuse are required to bring claims within 3 years of either: the abuse occurring, there being knowledge of the abuse having occurred, or of the survivor attaining their majority. The courts have a discretion under s33 of the Limitation Act 1980 to allow claims to continue outside of this time period where it is fair just and reasonable to do so. It seems obvious, but reforming this area of law to make it easier for individuals affected by child sexual abuse to bring claims for compensation, could result in a greater number of claims being presented to organisations and their insurers, even if the abuse occurred many years prior.
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