Under government plans children conceived during rape will be classed as victims of crime for the very first time.
The changes are widely expected to become part of the forthcoming Victims Bill. Once the changes become law, anyone conceived during a rape or any other sexual offence will be able to access information about their case. It will also become easier for them to get vital support from the police and the criminal justice system.
Despite the fact the changes will make England and Wales one of the first nations in the world to grant official victim of crime status to children born because of a rape or sexual offence, the proposals were not in the original draft of the Bill. The Commons Justice Committee recommended the amendments following pressure from campaign groups.
One of these groups was the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ). They estimate more than 3,000 children are likely to have been conceived after rape in England and Wales in 2021 alone. The CWJ have found indisputable evidence showing that both mothers and children affected by rape:
“Often suffer from attachment difficulties and poor mental health, which in turn can profoundly negatively affect a child’s development and educational outcomes, as well as his/her wellbeing in adulthood.”
The resultant cross-party Justice Select Committee quickly recognised individuals who believe they were conceived during rape currently find it “unnecessarily difficult” to get help or obtain information about their case because, up until this point, they were not recognised as victims.
Once passed, these changes will mean they can make a complaint to the police as a victim and receive the same support (including therapy and counselling) and information as any other victim of crime. This will include help with alcohol/drug dependency, education and housing benefit at any point in their lives.
The government’s announcement was supported by a statement from the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab:
“No child born in these horrific circumstances should be left to suffer alone, which is why we must ensure they can access vital support whenever they may need it. Our Victims Bill will amplify their voices and boost support for all victims at every stage of the justice system.”
Daisy’s Law: finally justice for children conceived during rape?
The change has been dubbed ‘Daisy’s Law’ by the CWJ. This name stems from the case of a campaigner who was born as a result of a rape in the 1970s.
The victim, Daisy, is due to speak to the BBC’s Newsnight about her ordeal tonight. Daisy was adopted as a baby but having accessed her birth records when she turned 18, she discovered her birth father, Carvel Bennett, had raped her mother when she was only 13.
Although the police investigated the case, it did not go to court. This spurred Daisy to begin a long campaign for justice with the aim of beginning a criminal case to convict her birth father even though, in legal terms, it was her mother who had been the victim rather than her.
After more than a decade the case finally went to court in Birmingham – thanks in no small part to the pressure of extensive BBC coverage in 2019 – where her birth father was convicted of rape in August 2021.
If you or a client are involved in a case involving rape or serious sexual offence and would like to discuss it with one of our experienced criminal barristers, please contact us.