Insurance industry recommendations for child abuse

23rd September 2019

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was set up after serious concerns that some organisations had failed and were continuing to fail to protect children from sexual abuse. Their task is to make sure that children get the care and protection from sexual abuse they need and deserve.

A report by The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has recently been published, bringing to light the inefficiency of the current justice systems concerning child abuse. The report focussed on the aftermath of child sexual abuse and the legal procedure surrounding compensation.

It outlined new industry recommendations for child sexual abuse cases, concluding that the current criminal and civil justice systems are unable to suitably recompense victims and survivors, with most reporting the processes frustrating, baffling, useless and even hostile. The procedure was described as emotionally challenging with one witness stating ‘it was like reliving again everything that had gone on’.

The Inquiry heard from 40 witnesses over 15 days of public hearings, including police officers, lawyers, insurance broker and survivors. Though some survivors claimed that no amount of money could pacify their experiences, others felt financial compensation could provide some closure, firstly by recognising the abuse itself and secondly by compensating for unfulfilled education or careers.

Most hoped for acknowledgement or an apology from the institution in which the abuse took place, but instead felt they were treated unfairly in court, getting caught up in decade-long litigation with insurers. Many felt re-traumatised and unsatisfied with the process, while some could successfully prove their case with facts but were turned down due to the time limit on claims – the law of limitation.

Overall, the Accountability and Reparations Inquiry report made two precise recommendations in respect of the insurance industry:

    1. The Local Government Association and the Association of British Insurers should produce codes of practice for responding to civil claims of child sexual abuse.

The codes should include recognition of the long-term emotional and psychiatric or psychological effects of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors, and acknowledgement that these effects may make it difficult for victims and survivors to disclose that they have been sexually abused and to initiate civil claims for that abuse.

The codes should also include guidance that:

    • claimants should be treated sensitively throughout the litigation process;
    • the defence of limitation should only be used in exceptional circumstances;
    • single experts jointly instructed by both parties should be considered for the assessment of the claimants’ psychiatric, psychological or physical injuries; and
    • wherever possible, claimants should be offered apologies, acknowledgement, redress and support.
    1. The Department for Work and Pensions should work with the Association of British Insurers to introduce a national register of public liability insurance policies. The register should provide details of the relevant organisation, the name of the insurer, all relevant contact details, the period of cover, and the insurance limit. These requirements should apply to policies issued and renewed after the commencement of the register, and those against which a claim has already been made.

The Financial Conduct Authority should make the necessary regulatory changes to compel insurers that provide public liability insurance to retain and publish details of all current policies.

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