Victims of crime who lived at the same address as their attacker will be entitled to compensation after a landmark Court of Appeal ruling. Senior judges said that the so-called ‘same-roof’ rule, which denied compensation to those who lived in the same home as their attacker before 1979, is ‘incompatible’ with human rights laws. The court made its decision in the case of a woman who suffered serious sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. The woman, identified only as JT for legal reasons, was denied the right to compensation because she shared a home with him – even though another victim of her stepfather received compensation. JT’s stepfather, who abused her when she was aged between four and 17, was convicted of eight offences including rape and sexual assault in 2012 and jailed for 14 years. But when she applied to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), which pays damages to victims of violent crime, she was refused a payout because of the rule.
‘It is all the more unfair when the reason for the difference in treatment – that JT was living as a member of the same family as her abuser, whereas (the other victim) was not – is something over which JT had no control and is a feature of her situation which most people would surely regard as making her predicament and suffering even worse.’
The rule was originally brought in to ensure that abusers did not benefit from compensation paid to victims they lived with. It was varied in 1979 so that any future child victims of domestic crimes could claim compensation, but the change was not applied retrospectively. Reforms were made in 2012, but the same-roof rule was maintained amid fears that scrapping it could see an increase in the number of claims. JT’s case was brought in England and Wales and there are separate challenges to the rule in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse recommended in its interim report in April that the rule should be scrapped. Lawyers representing the CICA had argued that the Government’s decision not to extend the compensation scheme to pre-1979 victims was ‘justified’.