Hannah Slarks wins victory for survivors of child sexual abuse


The High Court has ordered the Secretary of State for Justice to conduct a consultation on amendments to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.

Since 2012, the Scheme has contained a blanket rule that prevents anyone with unspent convictions from receiving compensation if they themselves become victims of a crime.  At the time, the Government said that the rule was designed to ensure that only “blameless victims” receive compensation.  The unspent convictions rule has been criticised as being unfair on survivors of child sexual abuse.  Having been abused as “blameless” children, they may have committed crimes by the time that their abusers are brought to justice many years later.  These crimes may be related to their trauma.  This point has been made by the Victim’s Commissioner, the All party Parliamentary Group on Child Sexual Abuse and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), among others.  In 2018, IICSA formally recommended that the unspent convictions rule should be revised so that applications are not automatically rejected in circumstances where an applicant’s criminal convictions are likely to be linked to their sexual abuse as a child. 

Hannah acted on behalf of Kim Mitchell, who was sexually abused by a teacher when she was eight, and whose abuser was only convicted two decades later, in 2017.  Since her abuse, she has struggled with complex PTSD and has not had the money required to access treatment.  At the point that her abuser was convicted, she had a single unspent conviction for a minor public order offense.  The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority denied her compensation, applying the unspent conviction rule.  She has appealed.  When her case was discussed in the press, a Government spokesperson commented publicly that these issues would be addressed in the Government’s Victims Strategy.

In 2018, the Victims Strategy committed that there would be a consultation into IICSA’s recommendation.  Survivors would have the opportunity to explain why the unspent convictions rule should be changed.  However, when the consultation was launched in July 2020, the Government announced that it had decided not to consult on this issue. 

Ms Mitchell sought judicial review of that decision.  The Secretary of State argued that the text in the Victims Strategy did not promise a consultation on this issue, or that the commitment was not sufficiently clear and unambiguous.  Lang J agreed with Ms Mitchell, and ordered the Secretary of State to conduct the consultation promised in the Victims Strategy. 

Hannah was instructed by the Centre for Women’s Justice.