Every day, Amy (not her real name), now a young woman, faces the prospect of reliving the trauma and psychological distress of child sexual abuse:
"I always know that there is another ‘little me’ being seen on the Internet by other abusers."1
For children in the United States like Amy, the law has now made it possible to claim damages against their online abusers to help pay the costs of their ongoing recovery.
But here in the UK, children are unable to hold offenders financially accountable for the abuse they inflict.
Call on Michael Gove, UK Secretary of State for Justice, to introduce a legal financial order to enable child victims of online sexual abuse to claim compensation from their abusers.
The NCA's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command estimates that 50,000 individuals in the UK are involved in downloading, sharing or streaming child sexual abuse images and videos.2 According to children's rights experts, each time an image is shared, a new form of child sexual abuse occurs.3
This recurring abuse can have an enduring psychological and financial impact on children like Amy, who require ongoing therapy and struggle to access long-term education and employment.4
Dear Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Justice,
We are sure you are aware of the decision of the US Supreme Court in the leading case of Amy v Paroline (12-856, 23/04/2014) and the legislation on which it was based:18 U.S.C. § 2259(a).
We write to ask you to review this legislation with a view to introducing a similar legal financial order in the UK to enable child victims of online sexual abuse to claim compensation from their abusers.
The deterrent value of establishing something similar within English jurisprudence could be substantial. Not only would potential offenders know that if they engage with child abuse images they run the risk of prosecution or of receiving a caution, in addition they would also know that a financial order could be made against them which may put their assets at risk.
The sort of financial orders we envisage might cover an element of compensation to the victim but also make a contribution to the cost of any necessary therapy or ongoing support the abused victim might need. Typically this would relieve the state of some or all of the cost of providing such therapy or support.