The government intends to amend the Victims Bill to clarify that children who were born as a result of rape are entitled to support from criminal justice agencies such as the police and courts. Over 2,000 children were conceived as a result of rape in 2021. Under ‘Daisy’s law’, children and adults who were born as a result of rape will be recognised as victims in their own right.
The Victims Bill will enshrine the Victims’ Code – a code of practice that sets out the minimum level of service victims can expect from criminal justice agencies – in law. However, a previous lack of explicit reference to people born as a result of rape in the Victims’ Code has made it difficult for them to claim support and entitlements. This has meant in the past that people have not been provided with information about their case.
The landmark piece of legislation follows recommendations from the Justice Select Committee in September 2022. It seeks to put the needs and voices of victims at the heart of the justice system and increase the accountability of agencies for the service they provide to them. It also includes a new duty for the CPS to meet victims in certain cases before trial.
Between 2017 and 2020, at least 900 mothers in the UK relied on the so-called ‘rape clause’ when applying for benefits. This is a statutory exception to the ‘two-child cap’ rule, which enables mothers who already have two children, and subsequently give birth to a child which they have conceived in rape, to claim child tax credit over and above the cap.
An evidence review commissioned by Centre for Women’s Justice has found that children born as a result of rape are at risk of suffering serious and long-term harm due to the distressing circumstances of their birth, from infancy well into later life.
The recognition of rape-conceived persons as secondary victims means that they will be able to pursue a criminal complaint, if they wish to do so – which may significantly improve the prospects of historic rape/child sexual abuse offences being recorded.
In the 1990s Daisy found out that she had been born as a result of a rape. As a child, she was raised by an adoptive family, shielded from the truth about the circumstances of her birth. After turning 18, however, she requested her adoption file, hoping to learn more about her birth family – and was horrified to learn that her birth mother had become pregnant with her at just 13 years of age.
It was even documented who the ‘father’ was: a 29-year-old man who, according to the records, had allegedly forced himself on his 13-year-old victim, but had denied paternity when confronted by the police. No criminal action had been taken against him at the time for his heinous offence.
Over the years that followed, Daisy established contact with her birth mother, and campaigned for her birth ‘father’ to be brought to justice, offering her DNA as evidence that could be used to prove the prosecution case. The man responsible – now in his seventies – was eventually convicted in 2020, with the benefit of evidence from both Daisy and her birth mother, and sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.
Daisy’s campaign for justice was praised at the sentencing hearing by the trial judge, who also observed in his sentencing remarks that she too was a ‘victim’, in many respects, of the abuse that had resulted in her birth. Her case raises a number of issues, including whether individuals who are conceived of rape should be regarded as secondary victims.
Following the news, Daisy said: “Thank you to everyone who supports this campaign. This started because a 13-year-old child was not believed and so grossly let down by police and social care. Huge respect to my birth mother’s courage.”
The Centre for Women’s Justice said: “A huge congratulations to our awesome client Daisy! Her tireless campaigning has changed the law!”
The Victims Bill
The Bill has undergone pre-legislative scrutiny from the Justice Committee, which published its final report towards the end of 2022.
The committee pointed out the way “victims” are defined, a lack of enforcement powers, and the need for additional resources for the Bill’s proposals to be effective, particularly around victim liaison and counselling. It also finds that the sharing of victims’ immigration status by the police with the Home Office acts as a barrier to justice and called for the practice to end.
Women’s Aid said: “We are especially concerned by the proposal to create a statutory definition of an IDVA, as well as the lack of a statutory commitment to provide sustainable, multi-year funding for community-based services.”
Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, said: “Our Victims Bill will ensure children born as a result of rape are recognised as victims of crime for the first time ever, so they receive better support with their voices heard by the police & courts. No person born in these horrific circumstances should suffer alone.”