Up to 7,500 victims of child abuse or domestic violence will be able to claim compensation worth as much as £126 million from today after ministers abolished the “same-roof” rule.
They have been denied compensation for decades under a rule that blocked victims of violent crime from receiving any money if the attacker was a family member with whom they were living at the time of the incident.
After a court of appeal test case decided the rule was incompatible with human rights, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has abolished the rule and agreed to compensate victims.
Internal MoJ documents suggest impact assessments estimate there are 7,500 people entitled to between £16,500 and £22,000 each after being denied justice.
The MoJ impact assessment estimates 70 per cent of 4,000 victims who were rejected will now be successful in securing compensation, and that there are a further 3,500 who will be entitled and could now claim pay-outs.
Edward Argar, victims minister, said: “The ‘same-roof’ rule was unfair and we recognise the impact this had on victims whose applications were refused simply because they lived with their attacker.
“Whilst no amount of compensation can make up for the immense suffering caused by such appalling crimes, by abolishing the rule we are widening access to much needed support and continue to review the entire scheme so it better supports victims.”
The test case was brought by a woman sexually abused by her stepfather from the age of four to 17. He was later convicted of eight offences including rape and sexual assault in 2012.
However when the woman, known only as JT for legal reasons, applied for damages through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) she was refused because of the "same roof" rule.
The rule was intended to ensure that perpetrators would not benefit from the compensation paid to the victims they lived with.
The rule was changed in 1979 so that child victims of domestic crimes could claim compensation, however the change was not applied retrospectively.
Further changes were made in 2012 but the same-roof rule was maintained amid fears that abolishing it would lead to a rise in the number of claims.
Victims will now have two years to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), with a dedicated team set up to provide extra support with the claim process – including a named contact to ensure applicants do not have to repeat their experiences to multiple people.
Gabrielle Shaw, chief executive of child abuse charity NAPAC, said: “Given that most child abuse happens within the family and children are likely to have had no choice but to live under the same roof as their abuser, this rule was rightly viewed as deeply unfair and punitive.
“It is impossible to measure the damage done by childhood abuse, but for many survivors the impacts affect their health, their adult relationships and their earning potential throughout their lives.”