A woman who was sexually abused as a child by a grooming gang in Rotherham was denied compensation by a Tory-led compensation authority after they said the then 14 year girl old had consented.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), the governmental body dealing with compensations for people who have suffered criminal injuries, rejected Sammy Woodhouse’s claims for compensation, claiming she was not “manipulated” into performing sex acts, but rather had consented – despite being only 14, legally unable to consent, when she was abused.
Although it is illegal in the UK to engage in any form of sexual activity with somebody under the age of 16, the CICA does not make payments to all children who have been sexually assaulted, instead reviewing each incident on a case-by-case basis.
Soon after turning 14, Sammy Woodhouse had begun to be groomed by then 24-year-old Arshid Hussain, who had started talking to Sammy and her friends outside a shop in Rotherham city centre. He would buy her presents, compliment her and take her out – but still the CICA claimed they were “not satisfied” that Woodhouse had been “groomed”.
Woodhouse has since admitted she thought she had consented at the time, though she was coerced into performing sex acts, claiming that she would do things she did not like because Hussain told her that “Everyone else does it.”
In July, it was revealed that the government had refused compensation to almost 700 child victims of sexual assault and rape, some as young as 12 – with the CICA claiming that they, too, had “consented”. The abusers of a number of the children denied compensation had nevertheless been prosecuted, prompting the question – why did the CICA claim that they had consented, despite their abusers being known sexual criminals?
These figures caused a national outrage, and since then five major charities (Barnado’s, Liberty, Rape Crisis, Victim Support and the NWG) have written to David Lidington, the Justice Secretary, demanding a re-write of the CICA guidelines.
Bowing to pressure from the public and these charities, CICA have claimed that they are now “urgently reviewing [their] guidelines to ensure they are robust enough to deal with cases where grooming may be a factor” – though there is no guarantee that any child who has suffered from sexual abuse will be offered compensation.
Legally, children under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex acts. David Greenwood, Woodhouse’s solicitor, hit out against the CICA’s decision to refuse Woodhouse compensation, saying he was “utterly shocked … that decision-makers in a governmental organisation can consider that 14- or 15-year-old girls can consent to sex with adults.”
After issuing an appeal against the CICA’s initial decision to deny her compensation, Sarah Woodhouse was initially offered a small settlement, which was finally amended so that she was awarded the full amount of £44,000.
However, many other victims of the other 700 victims of child sexual assault are still waiting to be offered any compensation at all.
The minimum compensation payout for sexual assault cases is £1000.
In an interview with the Guardian, Woodhouse revealed that the authorities were aware that she was being abused. Social services allowed her to meet Hussain at the end of her street, as long as she was back by 10pm.
The police were equally incompetent. Sammy claimed they “always saw [her] as his equal” rather than a victim, and she was only removed from his company if her parents reported her missing.
Hussain was eventually arrested when they raided his house while he was in bed with Woodhouse. Two of his brothers, an uncle and two women connected to the case have also been arrested, and the gang have been found guilty of 55 offences including rape and forced prostitution against 15 vulnerable children, one as young as twelve. Some of the offences remained undetected for almost 20 years.
The victims of Hussain’s circle were among the 1400 children who were sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. Although Rotherham borough was criticised for having “various and substantial organisational failings” which left these children vulnerable, in September it was found that no charges will be brought against any senior figures of the council for failing to protect victims and potential victims of sexual abuse.
Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, condemned the decision.
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