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Court rejects compensation bid for mother’s alcoholism

The Court of Appeal has dismissed a claim for criminal injuries compensation for damage caused to a child by her mother’s alcoholism.

In CP (A Child) v First-Tier Tribunal, the girl was born in June 2007, making her now seven years old. As her mother had drunk heavily during her pregnancy, CP was born with ‘foetal alcohol syndrome’ – a disorder which affects the child’s growth both in the womb and after birth. It affects the nervous system and can cause severe learning difficulties.

In November 2007, CP’s local authority made an application on her behalf for criminal injuries compensation from the body responsible for issuing such awards, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). However, the application was rejected by the Authority, because the injuries suffered by the girl during her pregnancy had been not caused by violence, and therefore fell outside the remit of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2008.

CP’s representatives appealed to a First Tier Tribunal, a type of court which deals with appeals made against rulings by government bodies. This reversed the earlier ruling, and held that CP had suffered an injury under the terms of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

This states that

“Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to be administered to or taken by any other person any poison or other destructive or noxious thing, so as thereby to endanger the life of such person, or so as thereby to inflict upon such person any grievous bodily harm, shall be guilty of felony…”

However, CICA was unsatisfied with the ruling and applied for a judicial review.

The Upper Tribunal dealing with administrative appeals reversed the decision again, saying that CP did not qualify as ‘any other person’ under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, because at the time the injuries were inflicted by her alcoholic mother, she had still been a foetus.

CP’s representatives unsuccessful appealed.

In the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Treacy endorsed the findings of the Upper Tribunal. He declared:

“The reality is that the harm has been done to the child whilst it is in utero. The fact that if the child is born alive it will suffer the consequences of the insult to it whilst in the womb does not mean that after birth it has sustained damage by reason of the administration of the noxious substance.”

Read the full judgement here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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