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Discriminatory 'same roof rule' finally to be abolished

28 Feb 2019

A ban on awarding Criminal Injuries Compensation to crime victims who lived with their attacker is finally set to be scrapped, more than half a century after it was introduced.

On Thursday 28th February, Ministers will take steps to abolish the 55-year-old so-called 'same roof' rule, following long-term campaigning by Rape Crisis and its partners on behalf of victims and survivors whose valid claims are being denied.

Under the rule, victims of violent crimes that took place before 1979 have been blocked from receiving compensation if the perpetrator was someone they were living with at the time of the incident.

This has disproportionately affected victims and survivors of sexual offences, particularly those sexually abused as children, because child sexual abusers are often someone known to the child, including family members and carers.

The announcement to abolish the ‘same roof’ rule was welcomed by Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW), as well as other organisations with which it has been campaigning in recent years over the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which is discriminatory and unfit for purpose. 

In a joint statement with Victim Support and Barnardo's, RCEW Co-Chairs Dawn Thomas and Dianne Whitfield  said:

“As a coalition, we have long campaigned to get justice for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse who have lost out due to illogical rules governing this Scheme.

“We are glad the Ministry of Justice listened to our concerns and that victims who were living under the same roof as their abuser pre-1979 will at long last be able to seek the compensation they so rightly deserve.”

Rape Crisis added:

"While this is an extremely positive step in the right direction, there remain a number of other ways in which the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) disadvantages, discriminates against and often even re-traumatises victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence, which must also be addressed as a matter of urgency."

The 'same roof rule' was introduced in 1964 to ensure offenders did not benefit from financial awards made to victims they shared a home with.

Difficulties with evidence in such cases also formed part of the rationale behind the rule, which applies to people who suffer physical or sexual abuse inflicted by a family member living under the same roof.

The arrangements were changed in October 1979, so victims could claim compensation if they no longer lived with their attacker and were unlikely to do so again.

But this was not applied retrospectively, meaning many victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse have missed out on compensation because their experiences took place prior to the change.

Following a court judgment last year that the rule is incompatible with human rights laws, the Government announced it would be abolished.

Today (28th February 2019), a statutory instrument will be laid in Parliament to remove the pre-1979 rule completely.

The Ministry of Justice said the move will amend the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme so that all victims abused by someone they lived with can reapply for compensation - regardless of when the attack took place.

Victims Minister Edward Argar said:

"We are abolishing the out-dated 'same-roof' rule so no victim is unfairly denied access to compensation after the trauma they suffered many years ago, simply because they lived with their attacker."

Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales Baroness Newlove welcomed the step.

She said:

"I have always felt that the rule was unfair. It has caused unnecessary distress to many victims and survivors, especially within families, where some siblings have been eligible for criminal injuries compensation and yet others have not, solely on the grounds of the date on which the abuse took place."

New and past applicants refused an award under the pre-1979 rule will still need to meet all the remaining eligibility criteria within the existing compensation scheme.