On 12 March 1996 a woman from Bristol who was violently attacked, raped and robbed won £4,000 compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB.) The CICB had initially refused her compensation because she had convictions related to prostitution.
Ms X was raped in July 1994. Despite knowing that the police and courts were likely to be biased against her because of her occupation, she reported to the police out of concern for other women who may be attacked by the same man. The rapist was sentenced to four years for rape and four years for robbery to run concurrently. But Ms X’s suffering and courage were dismissed by the CICB which in July 1995 turned down her application for compensation in spite of recognising that her convictions ‘ have nothing whatsoever to do with the incident which gives rise to the application’ and that “notwithstanding her way of life, she is entitled to say no and no one is entitled to assault her as she was assaulted on this occasion”.
Ms X Is glad to receive some financial recognition of the attack she suffered but the delay and extra stress of having to appeal the CICB initial refusal in order to get justice has made it much harder to recover.
Ms X Is not the first prostitute woman to be refused compensation. Margaret Shields was refused compensation for her daughter’s murder on the grounds that she was a prostitute. She is also appealing.
In 1982, the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape picketed the CICB for refusing compensation to a Yorkshire Ripper survivor, a Black woman, on the grounds that she had “misled the police “ and “provoked the attack upon her” because she was a prostitute. She was granted 217,500 on appeal.
The CICB has discretionary power to refuse compensation if they consider that “an applicant’s character and conduct make an award inappropriate.” This has been used not only against prostitute women but against women who have a record for shop‑lifting or other unrelated offences or a history of mental illness.
In using its discretionary powers to deny or reduce compensation in this way, the CICB is increasingly out of step with public opinion and even with the courts. In the recent successful private prosecution brought by two prostitute women the judge said that working as a prostitute can make women particularly vulnerable to attack and that therefore they are particularly deserving of protection.
Paragraph 6(c) on Character and Conduct must to be dropped from the CICB guidelines. Compensation should be based on evidence about the attack suffered not on prejudices and value judgements about the victim’s occupation or “way of life”. sex, race, class, disability, immigration or other legal status, age, sexual preference, etc.
We are also calling for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill to be scrapped. The new scheme introduced by Michael Howard which is due to come into effect in April will cut the compensation for victims by applying a rigid formula or “tariff” for Injures – £7,500 for rape and only £8,000 for sexual abuse. This is much lower than what we have been able to win for some victims. A woman whose husband was convicted of raping her applied for compensation with our help, and was awarded £225,000. Last week, a woman we represented whose attacker was not prosecuted, was awarded £9,000. Under the tariff scheme both would have got £7,500.
Howard accuses anyone who opposes his dangerous law and order policies of being “the criminal’s friend”. His compensation Bill is one more example that he is the “victim’s enemy”.
18 March 1996