Catholic Church and local authorities draw criticism over claims that child sex abuse victims 'consented'

The Catholic Church and local authorities have sparked criticism for trying to avoid paying compensation to victims of child sex abuse by claiming that the latter "consented" to the act.

(REUTERS / David Gray)A man who claims to have been sexually abused by the Catholic Church holds a placard last year as he stands outside the venue for Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Australia. February 29, 2016.

News broke out that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was withholding compensation for several of the children involved. Some of the child sex abuse victims' legal representatives told the Sunday Telegraph that local authorities, private schools, and religious groups try to avoid compensation payouts by claiming that their clients had "consented" even though they still were not of legal age.

Siobhán Crawford of the Bolt Burdon Kemp firm said this type of claim was usually made when the victim was already 16 years old when the abuse happened. The London-based firm had 10 previous cases involving this issue, but this number has noticeably gone up in the last couple of years. 

In cases where the victim had already turned 16 during the abuse, the Cambridgeshire County Council reportedy denied liability. It is worth noting, however, that adults holding positions of authority are not allowed to have sex with a child under their care even if the latter is already 16 years old.

"No child ever gives their 'consent' to being abused, and the increased use of this line of defence, although still quite rare, is worrying," said Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England. "I have contacted the Ministry of Justice previously and again recently about this issue and the Government should look urgently at what can be done to tackle it."

Last month, an independent report concluded that the insurers had interferered directly with the Church of England's pastoral responsibilities by advising that emotional support for sex abuse victims be stopped once they had received compensation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury accepted the findings of the review headed by child safeguarding specialist Ian Elliot, Premier reported.

A representative for insurer Ecclesiastical, however, strongly denied the findings of the independent review. He said they had not been asked to take part in the review, thus denying them the chance to "set the record straight." He said the insurer has always recommended continuing pastoral care and counseling for the child sex abuse victims.