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Why the 'same-roof' rule was "incompatible" with Human Rights Law

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The Court of Appeal has ruled that the ‘same-roof’ rule is incompatible with Human Rights Law. Nathalie Clayton and Tilly Bailey & Irvine's Personal Injury team explain what this means for those lodging an abuse claim....

Prior to this landmark ruling, anyone that was abused by someone they were living with prior to 1 October 1979 were unable to claim compensation for the abuse they were subjected to.

The ruling came after the Court of Appeal heard the case of a woman, identified as JT for legal reasons, who was refused an award of compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) as she had been living with her Stepfather at the time when he sexually abused her between the ages of four and 17. Her stepfather was convicted of eight offences of rape and sexual assault in 2012 and is currently serving a 14-year custodial sentence.

Under paragraph 19 of the CICA scheme an award would not be made in respect of a criminal injury sustained before 1 October 1979 if, at the time of the incident giving rise to that injury, the applicant and the assailant were living together as members of the same family. The rule was intended to ensure that the assailant would not benefit from any compensation paid to the victims that they lived with.

The rule was amended in 1979 so that victims of abuse could claim compensation; however, it was not applied retrospectively. Further changes were again made in 2012 but the ‘same-roof’ rule was preserved amid fears that abolishing it would lead to a rise in the number of claims.

Lord Justice Leggatt, who heard to appeal alongside Sir Terence Etherton and Lady Justice Sharp said the rule was “arbitrary and unfair”. He went on to say that a scheme under which compensation is awarded to one of the victims but not to JT is obviously unfair. A relative of JT, who was also subjected to abuse by JT’s stepfather, was successful in recovering compensation as she was not living with him as part of the same family at the time of the abuse.

JT may only be entitled to a declaration given that it will be a matter for Parliament to implement the changes.

The Government has 28 days to appeal the ruling.

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse and you would like to speak to a Personal Injury Specialist about how to make a claim for compensation, then please contact us and a member of our Personal Injury Team will be here for you.