The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), a government agency responsible for paying the settlements of children abused by Catholic Church officials, has denied payment to more than 700 victims and child abuse survivors.
The Church has been accused of using a loophole to avoid paying these victims, by saying that they “consented” to the abuse.
“No child ever gives their ‘consent’ to being abused, and the increased use of this line of defense, although still quite rare, is worrying,” said Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England. “I have contacted the Ministry of Justice previously and again recently about this issue and the Government should look urgently at what can be done to tackle it.”
Victims’ lawyers have said this excuse is something they’ve heard before, and is becoming an increasingly common one.
“It is time for the church to practice what they preach and to admit their failings, to take account of the damage this has caused to the lives of far too many children and lastly to apologize for the abuse,” said Dino Nocivelli, a specialist child abuse solicitor at the law firm of Bolt Burdon Kemp.
To show how preposterous the claims are, one charity, Victims Support, has brought forward examples of cases that were denied through this loophole.
One example they highlighted involved a 12-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man. The girl was given alcohol and brought into the woods by the man, where she was later sexually assaulted. She was denied compensation for her abuse because she “voluntarily” went into the woods.
Though the loophole has been used before, it hasn’t always been successful.
In one case, the claimant was a 15-year-old who was told by the oppositions lawyers that his abuse had actually occurred “in the context of a consensual relationship (albeit one the claimant in retrospect now appears to regret).”
The victim then argued that “[he] was below the legal age of consent anyway and there’s a grooming element to that kind of situation. It was totally disregarded and it made me feel really small.”
The case was finally settled, and the Catholic Church paid the victim £80,000.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Southwark said that the church does not comment on individual cases, out of respect for the victims privacy, but said that the Archdiocese “supports the right of anyone who has suffered harm to seek compensation.”
The Catholic Church has found itself at the center of an ongoing abuse scandal since the 1980s, with some church officials admitting to partaking and witnessing abuse going back as far as the 1960’s and 70’s.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II called an emergency meeting of the cardinals in an attempt to combat the rumors. However the abuse allegations continued, and he gained a reputation for turning a blind eye to abuse in the church.
Since 2004, more than 3,000 cases of abuse have been reported, and an average of 700 of those victims have been rejected for compensation.