The Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner of Greater Manchester has called research findings revealing rape victims are being denied compensation as ‘unacceptable’.
Tony Lloyd hit out after a study, published earlier this week, shows that existing rules penalise rape victims for having convictions for minor offences.
Having a criminal record for a minor offence is denying many rape victims life-changing compensation, according to the study by Doctor Olivia Smith, a senior criminology lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University.
The research highlighted the obstacles faced by rape victims in applying for criminal injury compensation and uncovered many flaws in the system, which wrongly penalise victims for minor criminal offences and significantly limit the success of being awarded compensation.
Mr Lloyd slammed the unacceptable barriers to compensation and urged ministers to review the criminal injuries compensation process.
“Rape is life-changing, leaving victims feeling vulnerable, distraught and alone. We need to offer our compassion and support to help them rebuild their lives, yet this study has exposed further flaws in the criminal injuries compensation system – flaws that are inevitably causing vulnerable victims undue distress and confusion.
“While compensation cannot erase the scars of what has happened them, it can be a helping hand at a dark and difficult time. Therefore it is unacceptable that victims are being denied compensation because of minor convictions.
“The system needs to be designed with the needs of victims at its heart. I urge ministers to review the criminal injuries compensation process to remove any unnecessary obstacles and, where possible, backdate claims from victims and survivors.”
Dr Smith asked 25 independent advisers, who have helped thousands of rape victims in their dealings with the criminal justice system, about the difficulties claimants faced.
Currently victims are entitled to £11,000 for a rape committed by one attacker, however one advisor told Dr Smith that they felt the criminal justice system is set up for judges to find “any excuse possible not to compensate”.
Government rules stipulate that compensation should not be paid to applicants with criminal records, but there can discretion where the offences were minor – meaning that minor offences should not be automatically used to reject claims. However the study suggests that this happens regularly.
According to Dr Smith, such offences should not therefore be automatically used to reject claims, but the independent advisers suggested this regularly occurs”.
“Previous research has shown rape survivors received partial awards on the basis of non-payment of a television licence, using a phone whilst driving, and breaching the peace.
“These offences are low-level and are unlikely to cause enough public distress to justify the government’s claim that providing financial redress would be immoral.”
The research also found the Crown Prosecution Service and police are advising victims to delay making a claim for compensation until after a trial, despite there being just a two-year window in which to do so.