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Historic Abuse in Young Offenders Institutions

There have been a number of reports in the press recently regarding a man who was sexually abused as a boy, whilst attending Stanhope Castle, an approved school for young offenders, being denied compensation by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

The CICA is a government funded scheme designed to compensate victims of violent crime in England, Wales and Scotland. Unfortunately, the criteria that an applicant must meet to be eligible for compensation are quite strict.

Stanhope was an approved school for boys under the control of the Home Office from 1941 until 1973, when approved schools were abolished.  It became a community home under the control of various local authorities until it closed in 1981.  In 2013 Durham Police set up Operation Midday, and 28 victims have come forward, including the man in question.  He was subject to sexual abuse and beaten every day for six years but was denied compensation from the CICA due to an unspent conviction following a four-year jail term.

Under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, an applicant may be awarded compensation if they were the victim of a violent crime. An application generally has to be submitted within two years of the crime and the crime must have been reported to the police beforehand. You may be also able to claim for a crime that happened more than two years ago if one or both of the following apply:

  • You are claiming because of childhood sexual or physical abuse
  • You could not claim earlier, for example because your mental or physical health prevented you from doing so.

There are a number of grounds for withholding or reducing an award under the terms of the 2012 scheme such as the incident giving rise to the criminal injury must have been reported to the police as soon as reasonably practicable and the applicant must have co-operated as far as reasonably practicable in bringing the assailant to justice.  An award may also be withheld due to the conduct of the applicant before, during or after the incident giving rise to the criminal injury making it inappropriate to make an award or a full award i.e. unspent convictions.

The man in this case was rejected compensation on the basis that he had an unspent conviction.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority scheme excludes awards of compensation if an applicant has an unspent conviction, which resulted in a custodial or community service sentence.

Unlike some of the other recently publicised cases, there have been no prosecutions arising out of the physical or sexual abuse at Stanhope Castle.  This meant that many of the cases were not progressed against the local authorities to whom Stanhope Castle’s liabilities were transferred due to lack of evidence, and the only recourse was by way of CICA application.  This may not be the case in relation to other institutions.

Tilly, Bailey & Irvine have settled a number of cases for former inmates that were subjected to physical abuse whilst detained at Medomsley Detention Centre. Civil Claims were made against the Ministry of Justice and there have been in excess of over 100 successful compensation claims to date.  They are also instructed in a number of similar claims against Kirklevington Detention Centre.

If you have been affected by abuse at a young offender’s institution or detention centre and wish to speak to a solicitor, please contact Nathalie Clayton at nclayton@tbilaw.co.uk or telephone 01429 …