Those who suffer sexual abuse are entitled not only to see perpetrators punished by the criminal law, but also to sue them for damages. In a case on point, a young man whose life was thrown into chaos after he was molested by a senior police officer won substantial compensation.
The boy was 15 when he met his abuser, who was a chief superintendent. He had an interest in joining the police and the abuser took on the role of his adviser and mentor. The abuser also gave the boy scuba diving lessons and it was during one of those lessons that he subjected the boy to a serious sexual assault.
The victim contacted the police shortly after the attack, which occurred in 2000, but, following an investigation, no further action was taken on the basis that his account was uncorroborated. He tried to put the incident behind him but, in 2012, the police contacted him and informed him that the abuser was under investigation.
The policeman was subsequently convicted of 28 sexual offences against a number of men, women and boys. His crimes included rape, sexual activity with a child, possession of indecent photographs and indecent assaults. The latter included the attack upon the victim. The abuser was jailed for life, but his sentence was subsequently reduced to 20 years by the Court of Appeal.
The victim was in his 30s when he commenced legal action against his abuser. The latter played no part in the hearing of the case, but the judge exercised her discretion to proceed in his absence. The victim's claim had been lodged far outside the normal three-year limitation period which applies to such cases. However, the judge said there were good reasons why he had not launched proceedings earlier and allowed his claim to proceed.
The abuser had given differing accounts of the incident and had alleged, amongst other things, that the victim was a willing participant. The victim emphatically denied that assertion and the judge found that, in the light of his conviction, the abuser had no realistic prospect of successfully defending the claim.
The victim had a predisposition to depression before the attack, but had been doing well at school and expected to go on to university. After the incident, however, he never completed sixth form and had drifted from job to job, experiencing mental health difficulties, alcohol addiction and problems in his personal relationships.
At one point he took an overdose of tablets and was sectioned. However, he is currently managing his depression and alcohol intake and is living with a long-term partner. A psychiatrist described him as being in a better state of mind, but still vulnerable. He was awarded a total of £48,320 in damages, made up of £25,000 for his pain, suffering and loss of amenity, £15,000 in respect of his loss of earnings and £8,320 to cover the costs of therapy.