Compensation body told Rotherham abuse victim she 'consented'

Sammy Woodhouse, who was groomed at 14, was initially refused a Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority payout

A woman who was sexually abused as a child by a Rotherham grooming gang was refused compensation by a government body that claimed she consented to it.

Sammy Woodhouse was told by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) that she was not “manipulated” despite her evidence helping to convict a ringleader of the gang last year.

She said: “If an adult can privately think that it’s a child’s fault for being abused, beaten, raped, abducted, I think you’re in the wrong job.”

Woodhouse, one of the most prominent survivors of the Rotherham sex-grooming scandal, is one of nearly 700 child victims of sexual abuse who have been refused payments by CICA.

It emerged in July that the body had denied compensation to victims as young as 12, even when their attackers had been jailed. It is illegal to have sexual activity with anyone under 16 but CICA does not automatically make payments to all victims.

The government scheme is reviewing its guidelines following criticism from charities including Barnardo’s and Victim Support.

In Woodhouse’s case, the BBC’s Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire reported that CICA initially refused her application for compensation, stating: “I am not satisfied that your consent was falsely given as a result of being groomed by the offender. The evidence does not indicate that you were manipulated or progressively lured into a false relationship.”

When Woodhouse appealed against the decision she was offered a small settlement, which was eventually altered and she was awarded the maximum amount.

David Greenwood, her solicitor, said: “I am utterly shocked by the notion that decision-makers in a government organisation can consider that 14- or 15-year-old girls can consent to sex with adults. They decided she must have consented when it’s just not legally possible.”

Woodhouse, who waived her anonymity this year, was 14 when she was groomed by 24-year-old Arshid Hussain, who was last year jailed for 35 years along with his brothers after being convicted of multiple offences including rape, abduction and indecent assault.

The gang of three brothers, their uncle and two women were found guilty of 55 serious offences, some of which lay undetected for almost 20 years. Sheffield crown court heard last year how they targeted 15 vulnerable girls, one as young as 11, and subjected them to brutal and degrading acts between 1987 and 2003 including rape, forced prostitution, indecent assault and false imprisonment.

Their victims were among the 1,400 children who had suffered sexual exploitation in the south Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013 – routinely ignored by the police, social services and council – according to the Jay report published in 2014.

CICA referred press inquiries to a statement made in the House of Commons by David Liddington, the justice secretary, earlier this year. He said: “CICA has decided to mount an urgent re-examination of its own internal guidelines, in particular to make sure that there is no risk that a child could be disqualified from compensation because they had been groomed.”


Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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