In any civilised society, the state has a monopoly on punishing criminals – but that does not mean victims of violent offences must go uncompensated. The point was proved by a case in which a woman who was subjected to physical and sexual assaults by her estranged husband secured substantial damages.
The woman had been married to the man for 13 years and was the mother of his three children. However, bitter divorce proceedings followed the breakdown of the marriage. He forced his way into her home while the children were at a party and inflicted a terrifying ordeal of sexual and physical violence upon her before she was able to escape naked into the street, where a neighbour came to her aid.
The husband subsequently received a lengthy prison sentence after he admitted causing the wife to engage in sexual activity without consent. Other even more serious charges were left on file. She took action against him, alleging assault, battery, trespass to the person, sexual assault, false imprisonment and making threats to kill. Judgment was entered against him after he failed to put in a defence to her claim.
In awarding her £75,000 in aggravated damages, the High Court noted the severe psychological impact the husband's behaviour had had upon her. She suffered frequent nightmares, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression and hyper-vigilance. Her fear of leaving her home had left her socially isolated and expert evidence showed that she had suffered a moderately severe post-traumatic stress reaction.