Sexual Abuse Compensation
In a sex abuse case where liability was admitted in respect of historic sexual abuse by a scout camp leader, heard evidence in respect of the amount of an award of damages for the claimant who had been one of the victims. The court allowed an award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity but rejected any award for past or future loss of earnings, for handicap on the open labour market or for therapy and gave no separate award by way of aggravated damages.
What issues did this case raise? Why is it significant?
While liability was admitted in this case at an early stage, the defendant disputed:
- the extent of the abuse suffered by the claimant
- the psychological impact of that abuse, and
- the losses which the claimant had suffered as a result of the abuse
During the period of the abuse itself, the abuser had presented the claimant with gifts and money, which is all too common in these claims as part of the grooming process. An unusual feature of the claim was that the abuser continued to provide the claimant with money and gifts even after the abuse came to a conclusion and well into adulthood. At trial, the defendant raised the additional argument that these gifts amounted to ‘compensation’ for which the claimant should give credit. They argued that these gifts and money essentially meant that the claimant had already been partly compensated for the abuse.
What did the court decide?
The court accepted that the abuse in this case was severe and prolonged but came to the conclusion that the psychological injury suffered by the claimant as a result of the abuse was not significant. Prior to trial, the defendant had made two relatively low offers to settle the claim which were not acceptable. The sum awarded to the claimant by the court, £48,000 plus interest, exceeded the defendant’s offers and the claimant was therefore successful at trial. Furthermore, the court, rightly, concluded that the gifts received by the claimant during the course of the abuse were just that and therefore the claimant’s compensation should not be reduced to give credit for these.