Criminal records for minor offences are routinely denying rape victims life-changing compensation, according to a new university study.
Research led by Doctor Olivia Smith, a senior criminology lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, highlights the obstacles faced by rape victims in applying for compensation.
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.
Her findings uncovered a number of flaws in the system which wrongly penalise victims for minor criminal offences such as non-payment of a television licence and significantly limit the success of being awarded compensation.
Currently Victims of rape are entitled to £11,000 for a rape committed by one attacker but government rules stipulate compensation should not be paid to applicants with criminal records. However Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority judges are allowed to use discretion where offences are minor.
“[Such offences] should not therefore be automatically used to reject claims, but the independent advisors suggested this regularly occurs,” Dr Smith explained.
“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.”
Following the news, Greater Manchester mayor and police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd called for major reforms in the criminal injuries compensation system, putting “victims at its heart”.
Compensation is often used to finance therapy and counselling and can help towards loss of earnings.
Mr Lloyd said: “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.”
“I urge ministers to review the criminal injuries compensation process to remove any unnecessary obstacles and, where possible, backdate claims from victims and survivors”, he added.
The research also found the Crown Prosecution Service and police are also routinely advising rape victims to delay making a compensation claim until after a trial, despite there being just a two-year window in which to do so.