When Monica Allan was just three months old back in 1968, her mother tried to kill her.
But after time in the care of the authorities, the attempted murder charge was dropped, but she was convicted of assault and Allan was released back into the care of her mother. Five years later, her mother pushed her face under a running tap and tried to strangle her.
The toddler’s life was saved when her father and visiting friends intervened. Her mother was again convicted of assault. After that, Allan grew up in foster care, though arrangements were made for her to continue seeing her mother, who was drinking heavily and in and out of psychiatric hospitals. It was not a happy childhood.
Now aged 50, Allan, is today celebrating a landmark legal victory after the UK’s Supreme Court cleared her way to claim financial compensation for the injuries she suffered.
It is the latest step in a seven-year legal battle Allan, who has waived her right to anonymity, has waged since being informed she was not entitled to any such support because she had lived in the same home as mother.
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The little-known “same roof” rule prevents survivors of abuse from making a claim from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) if they lived with their abuser in the years before October 1979, but it is now being challenged by multiple survivors in the courts.
It was originally brought in to ensure abusers did not benefit from compensation paid to the victims they lived with. Reforms were made in 2012, but the same-roof rule was upheld because of fears that scrapping it could see a spike in the number of claims going through the courts.
Being so young, Allan had no recollection of her mother’s first attempt to kill her. She only learned the full details of the attack in 2012, when she asked to see her social work records. For the second attempt on her life, she has more vivid memories.
Allan, who now lives in East Kilbride, challenged the same roof rule in 2015 and 2017 in the Court of Session on the basis of discrimination and a violation of her human rights. She failed to win a judicial review, but was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, which has now conceded that she should not be prevented from applying for compensation – a major win for victims of historical family violence and abuse.
She told HuffPost UK: “What happened will always haunt me. I was getting quite good at putting memories in a box and keeping them locked in there over the years. But when I started working with the lawyers, it was quite literally like opening Pandora’s Box.
“Everything came out and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. The way I dealt with things, the nightmares, the dreams, the flashbacks, the fear at night time, which I still have. It’s a difficult path.”
Allan said the legal challenge had reinforced the feeling that “I do count, I do deserve the compensation and I do have the right, like anyone else who has been through this to apply.”
Allan suffers from recurring nightmares and takes medication for anxiety and depression. She said: “The fact that it was my own mother who did this to me makes it a thousand times worse than if it had been a stranger.”
Allan has four children, and says when the compensation comes she will “just spend time with my family, to do things with them, to make things count and build memories. That’s all this is about for me, personally.”
Last year in Britain a woman identified only as JT won a Court of Appeal challenge against the same-roof rule. JT’s stepfather, who abused her when she was aged between four and 17, was convicted of eight offences, including rape and sexual assault, and jailed for 14 years.
But when she applied to CICA, which pays damages to victims of violent crime, she was refused a pay-out, even though another of her stepfather’s victims not living with them received compensation.
In response to JT’s victory, in September the Ministry of Justice announced it would abolish the rule and examine concerns about the compensation scheme as part of its work on a victims’ strategy, due to be published this summer.
Paul Brown is principal solicitor at Legal Services Agency, a law centre which has worked with Allan on her case since 2012.
He said: “It’s really good that somebody who’s had the raw end of life has won. And she will have the satisfaction of knowing that her test case, along with others, means that a number of other people hit by the same rule should get compensation as well.
“This is one step further in opening up a new remedy. JT was a breach in the same roof rule and then the government had to say they are not appealing JT and not opposing Monica Allan – it’s a double pronged-attack. It’s worth noting that only with the funding from the Scottish Legal Aid Board could Monica have taken her case.”
Now that Allan’s claim has been given permission to proceed, it will have to go back to CICA for investigation where her compensatory sum will be assessed, a process Brown estimates could take between three and four months.
Her compensation will be graded according to the types of injuries she suffered as a result of the abuse. Very serious injuries, such as brain injuries, tend to result in higher awards, with mental injuries and wage loss harder to establish.
Kirsti Nelson, who worked on Allan’s legal team, said: “This is a major victory for our client, which paves the way for justice for many others. The strength of the human rights law gives real teeth to campaigners who will seek to engage with the government’s full review of the criminal injuries compensation scheme.
“The government will hopefully remove the injustice of the “same roof” rule in a way that compensates everybody affected, whether they have never applied or applied and been rejected in the past.”
As Allan steels herself for the next chapter in her fight for compensation, she said: “I often ask myself, where do I belong? I’ve gone through life with nobody looking out for me and it has been a battle. But I did come out the other side.”