02 December 2015
The Sexting Case Judgment and Compensation for Non-Contact Abuse
A recent High Court decision has given guidance on how survivors of non-contact abuse can claim compensation for any harm they suffer.
In the case of ABC v West Heath, a child with learning difficulties was groomed by her teacher who encouraged her to take sexually explicit photos of herself and send them to him by text. The teacher later sexually assaulted the girl, but a significant proportion of the damages were awarded for the non-contact elements – i.e. the harm suffered as a result of being manipulated into sending sexually-explicit images.
It’s the first case in which a court has awarded damages for ‘sexting’ and sends a clear signal that anyone who suffers harm as a result of non-contact abuse can claim compensation.
Types of Non-Contact Abuse
People who have suffered other types of non-contact abuse can be encouraged by the ABC decision to seek a remedy via the civil courts.
Victims of ‘revenge porn’ – the unauthorised sharing of private sexual images, often by ex-partners – may also be entitled to make a civil claim. The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, introduced earlier this year, made it a criminal offence to “disclose private sexual images without consent and with intent to cause distress”. The High Court’s decision in the ABC case makes clear that an abuser is in breach of a duty of care towards their victim, even where no physical assaults have taken place. This goes to establish that the victims of revenge porn can claim damages for the psychological harm they suffer.
Another type of non-contact abuse in which victims often suffer great psychological harm is voyeuristic filming, or having indecent images taken without consent. Slater and Gordon are currently instructed in several cases relating to Jonathan Thomson-Glover, a former teacher at Clifton College in Bristol. In August this year, Glover was found guilty of making sexually explicit films of more than 120 schoolchildren who were left devastated after learning how they were secretly filmed by a teacher in whom they placed a great amount of trust.
Claiming Compensation for Non-Contact Abuse
In the ABC sexting case, the court awarded £25,000 for the non-contact elements alone saying that the majority of harm was already done by the time the physical abuse occurred.
The High Court also considered whether an intention to cause harm or distress was required, with the judge saying that “it was obvious that the illicit relationship would in the end cause nothing but harm to the vulnerable claimant some 39 years younger than her groomer” and that “those consequences must have been entirely clear and obvious” to the teacher.
In the case of ABC, the abuser was a teacher, and a case was brought against the school for the abuse suffered under the principle of vicarious liability. This means that an employer can be held responsible for the actions of their employees – or anyone in a relationship akin to employment – carried out whilst performing their duties.
Slater and Gordon have the UK’s most experienced team of abuse lawyers and are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse, many of whom have been abused by people in positions of trust, such as teachers, or have been abused at institutions, such as private schools.
We understand how much courage it takes to speak out about any kind of abuse and give you our assurance that any communication with us will be dealt with in absolute confidence.
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