One month after Government promised to scrap the ‘same roof rule’, serious concerns remain
Last month, the Government published its Victims Strategy, setting out its “vision for victims of crime”.
The strategy outlines that there will shortly be a consultation on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) – a government-funded scheme meant to compensate victims of violent crime.
The CICS can be a vital way for victims to have their experiences acknowledged and help them move on – and Liberty has been campaigning for, and working with, victims to ensure it is as fair as possible.
And it was an important moment for us when the Government also announced it would scrap the ‘same roof rule’.
The ‘same roof rule’
The current CICS states that a victim of crime will not be compensated if the offence took place “before 1 October 1979 if, at the time of the incident ... the applicant and the assailant were living together as members of the same family.”
This has led to the unfair and absurd result that children who were abused by a parent or step-parent before October 1979 being denied compensation – even though they had no choice but to live with their attacker.
The abolition of this rule is obviously extremely welcome. But, given the fanfare with which the announcement was made, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Government had carefully listened to victims and acted accordingly.
In fact, the Court of Appeal had already decided that the ‘same roof rule’ was unreasonable and a breach of human rights. That decision is not being appealed.
Frankly, the Government had no choice but to scrap it.
Critical concerns remain
The Government and relevant agencies must now work swiftly to ensure those affected by the ‘same roof rule’ are compensated.
But – exactly a month after the announcement – some critical concerns are yet to be addressed.
The rule is still written into the scheme itself. If the consultation doesn’t take place for several months, and then the responses need to be considered before a new scheme is drafted and presented to Parliament, it could be a very long time before it is formally removed.
This means the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority could technically continue denying compensation to victims until the actual changes come into force.
There has been no detail about what happens to those who apply after the announcement was made, but before the formal changes take place. We urgently need clarity.
And, perhaps even more worryingly, nothing has been said about people who applied previously and were denied compensation under the ‘same roof rule’.
The scheme specifically prohibits an award being made to someone who has applied before, irrespective of how that application was concluded.
There has been no word on that rule being suspended, even in these very specific circumstances.
This is a significant problem as the vast majority of people who could fall foul of the ‘same roof rule’ have probably already applied for – and been denied – compensation. What is the Government planning to do about them?
Immediate steps must be taken to guarantee that those who apply now are not denied compensation simply because it will take time for the scheme to be formally amended.
And we urge the Government to make sure people who have been denied compensation can re-apply and not fall foul of the rule preventing second applications.
For the Government's announcement to have any real meaning, this must be done now.