Tribunal awards child victim of Craig Sweeney significant criminal injuries compensation following appeal

The Tribunals Service has agreed to significantly increase the award made to Child A, the victim of paedophile Craig Sweeney.

The decision followed two appeals by Child A’s solicitor, who said that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) had failed to recognise the severity of Child A’s physical and psychological injuries.

The claim related to injuries inflicted on the night of 2 January 2006 when Child A, then aged 3, was sexually assaulted on at least two separate occasions and then thrown from a moving car by a man whose prison licence had expired only two days previously. Sweeney was subsequently convicted of kidnap, three counts of sexual assault by penetration and dangerous driving.

Following the trial, Child A’s family made an application for compensation to the CICA, which provides compensation to victims of crime. In October 2008, the CICA assessed the compensation to be awarded to Child A at under £9,000.

Child A’s solicitors appealed the award on the basis that the CICA had misinterpreted the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and failed to understand the severity of the injuries. Following this appeal, the CICA increased the award by a minimal amount to £12,177.50. 

In June 2009 Hickman & Rose appealed again to the Tribunals Service on the basis that:

1. The CICA incorrectly assessed the award on the basis of a single assault, despite the fact that the sexual assaults took place over a prolonged period of time and resulted in convictions on three counts;
2. The CICA wrongly assessed Child A has having suffered one incident of indecent assault when, applying the civil standard of proof, she should have been compensated for non-consensual intercourse; and
3. The CICA failed to take into account Child A’s severe physical and mental injuries.

The matter went to an oral hearing on 10 December. At that hearing, the Tribunals Service admitted that the CICA’s original award had been incorrectly calculated and agreed to increase the award to Child A by a substantial amount.

Child A’s mother considers that the new award more accurately reflects the incredibly serious nature of the injuries sustained by her daughter. Speaking today, she said:

“I am just glad that this has come to a closure. We can now get on with rebuilding our daughter’s life”.

Child A’s solicitor, Anna Mazzola, said:

“We are relieved that the panel accepted our arguments as to why the CICA had misinterpreted the Scheme. We are pleased that the award now reflects the appalling nature of the crime and of our client’s injuries although, given the shocking nature of the crime, it is unfortunate that it took two appeals for the right decision to be reached.

Now that this matter has been resolved and the civil claim against South Wales police has settled, my client’s family will be more able to get on with their lives and give their daughter the childhood she deserves.”

Notes for editors
In July 2004 Craig Sweeney was released on licence from a three year custodial sentence for indecent assault on a six year old girl. Towards the end of his time on licence, Sweeney had been accused of violence towards another man and of inappropriate touching of a child. However, he was not recalled. His licence expired on 31 December 2005.

Two days later, on 2 January 2006, Sweeney abducted Child A, then 3 years old.

Despite the abduction being reported to the police immediately, a series of errors by South Wales Police meant that Sweeney was only caught by another police force several hours later, by which time Child A had been sexually assaulted several times.

In 2008, Child A's mother initiated a civil claim against the police on her daughter’s behalf. The action was for negligence and breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 in respect of their failure to protect her daughter’s right to life and right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. 

Until recently, South Wales Police had insisted on defending the claim. In July 2009, however, they agreed to compensate Child A in respect of their failures and apologised in full.

Sweeney pleaded guilty to offences including kidnap and three offences of sexual assault by penetration. In June 2006, he was sentenced to four concurrent sentences of life imprisonment with a minimum of tariff of 5 years 108 days’ imprisonment. The tariff caused public outcry and a rift between John Reid, then Home Secretary, and Lord Goldmith, then Attorney General.

For further information, please contact Anna Mazzola, on amazzola@hickmanandrose.co.uk or at 020 7702 5331.