Proving Historical Abuse Occurred – A Guide

There may be many reasons why victims take years before they speak out and decide to report the abuse. This may be because no one believed them at the time, they were too scared because the abuser threatened them or they were too young to understand a crime had been committed at the time, this is understandable. However when the victim does decide to report the abuse what evidence and proof will they need? In this guide we explain the steps victims can take to seek justice for abuse that happened in their past.

1. Reporting it to the police

The first step would be to report the incident/s to the police, you can do this by going to your local police station or by calling 101. This may be very difficult and it would be better to have someone close to you support you through this. It would involve providing a detailed statement of what happened and also details of the abuser. The police will then explain the prosecution process should you want the abuser to get prosecuted in the criminal court. The police will begin an investigation if they feel confident with you wanting to proceed.

2. The investigation process

As part of the investigation process, the police may do the following;

  • If you have already reported it, the police will re-open the file and look for any evidence it contains.
  • If you told anyone at the time and they supported you (friend, relative or GP) they may be interviewed 
  • Ask you to provide details of any other witnesses who can corroborate your report
  • They may attempt to gather forensic evidence which may not be possible due to the time that has passed.
  • May try to access medical records with your consent
  • May arrest and interview the abuser (if you are wanting to prosecute)

3. After the police have completed their investigation

After completing their investigation (which could take a long time) the police normally pass the file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who will decide whether there is enough evidence and if it is in the public interest to charge and convict the abuser. This may involve a court process in which you will be required to give evidence during trial. As mentioned earlier where it is possible to try and secure a prosecution for historical abuse and get a conviction, it is very difficult to achieve.  It’s very important that you consider the pros and cons before embarking on this quest and ensure to have a good network of support to help you with this journey.

However, you may be able to recover legal compensation by using some of the steps referred to in the investigation process above. For example if you did report the incident/s then you may request a copy of the police report or give consent for your legal representatives to access this. It may be that your medical report has details of any injuries or treatments provided, again this would be very important evidence which will help your case. 

We understand how difficult it is to experience abuse, whether it is yourself or someone you know, sometimes trying to find help is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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