Back

Damages Awarded in Childhood Sexual Abuse Case

I have acted for many victims of sexual abuse and was pleased to see the recent High Court case of BDA v Domenico Quirino. This case highlights the impact of childhood abuse and gives guidance as to how a court will go about trying to compensate, as far as money will allow, victims. Judgment was given for approximately £280,000 after a 28 year old girl had suffered systematic sexual abuse during her teenage years, at the hands of her karate teacher, during a four year period.

Compensation.jpg

In this recent case BDA developed post traumatic stress disorder together with depression, and whilst she had undergone treatment which had helped, the medical evidence obtained for the case advised she would be prone to suffer recurrences of depression for the rest of her life. BDA, through sheer hard work and concentration, obtained a biomedical science degree with first-class honours. However, there were periods when she struggled with her depression and the court found that it was likely she would suffer a loss of earnings in the future.

Only 15% report attack to police

A staggering 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year. This is a shocking statistic. What is more staggering is the fact that only 15% of those victims will report an attack to the police, and 90% of the victims are raped by someone who is known to them, (statistics taken from An overview of sexual offending in England and Wales released by the Ministry of Justice, Office for National Statistics and the Home Office in January 2013).

It is a sad fact that often abuse and rape happens to a victim when they are not able to appreciate they are being abused, and this is why many abuse claims are not brought before the courts until many years after the actual abuse has taken place. A large proportion of sexual abuse occurs in children who are more vulnerable to the grooming process, and more often than not it occurs where the child is in a relationship of trust, such as a family member or friend, or a teacher and pupil. The victim may become trapped in a cycle of abuse enduring many years of suffering in silence.

Suffering continues long after abuse has stopped

For someone who has suffered abuse it takes great strength once they realise of what has happened to them. Firstly they need to deal with understanding they have been abused, as they may have pushed the abuse to the back of their mind for many years, and secondly the need to find the confidence to tell someone, whilst dealing with their own fears that they may not be believed. There is then the trauma of dealing with potential criminal proceedings and the legal process which that would involve.

Whilst the actual act of abuse itself is bad enough, that is not the end of the suffering for the victim but moreover just the start. The victim’s suffering continues long after the abuse has stopped and can impact on all areas of their life. It can affect their ability to trust people, to develop normal sexual relationships, and also on their education and employment prospects, as is well illustrated in the BDA case.

Aggravated damages

Victims who wish to pursue their perpetrator for compensation are entitled to claim general damages for pain and suffering, injury to feelings and an important highlight from this case is a separate award of aggravated damages. Aggravated damages are given where there has been suffering for a claimant due to heightened feelings. In this case the court felt that BDA was entitled to aggravated damages due to the defendant’s conduct in firstly attempting to appeal his conviction from the criminal proceedings, and secondly because of his failure to engage in the litigation process. This had effectively forced BDA to attend an assessment hearing where she had to provide evidence again, (BDA had already given evidence for the criminal proceedings) which would have caused her further distress. Financial Losses can also be claimed, for example for loss of earnings, medical treatment and therapy and care depending on the facts.

I am pleased to see this decision as it is an acknowledgment of what the victim has to go through in bringing their own civil proceedings, which is not an easy thing to do, but it can also add a significant additional amount of money to their compensation.

Of course no amount of money will ever be able to take away the pain and distress caused to a victim of abuse, but it would hopefully go some way to providing them with a feeling of justice.