As told by Val Jeal, founder of One25.
Kathy was out working the streets one night when she was kidnapped and held in a flat for several days. During this time, she was repeatedly raped and her skin burnt with cigarettes before her kidnapper strangled her with his belt and dumped her unconscious body in a Bristol car-park. Kathy was found by two policemen during a routine police check and taken straight to Bristol Royal Infirmary, where we visited her regularly. After several weeks in hospital, she was discharged to a hostel for the homeless and then we referred her on to The Well, a women-only safe-house. Avon & Somerset Police took up the case and the man was convicted of multiple rapes, kidnap and attempted murder charges.
I was volunteer founder and project leader of One25 at the time and was called in to advise Kathy, with the Vice Liaison Officer present, to apply for criminal injuries compensation. Kathy was still living in The Well when she received a letter from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority informing her that “due to her character” she would not be eligible for compensation.
This decision was based on Kathy’s 10 convictions, all spent and for petty crimes, mostly committed when she was a juvenile. Her mother had been an addict during Kathy’s childhood and she had been caught multiple times shoplifting food when she was hungry. She had not committed any crimes for years. She was devastated.
I was deeply moved and immediately took up the case. I wrote to CICA to request an appeal, which was turned down. Together with Dorothy Milne, a co-founder of One25, we again approached CICA to request that Kathy’s case should be reconsidered.
During that time Caroline Flint, Under Secretary of State in the Home Office with a responsibility for prostitution, made a visit to One25. Kathy had the opportunity to share her story with Caroline and with Valerie Davey MP who was also there. Dorothy and I again wrote to CICA letting them know how shocked the MP’s had been. The police officer who had worked on Kathy’s case also supported the application.
Finally, Kathy received a non-negotiable offer of £11,500 compensation. She was absolutely delighted and accepted the offer. Upon receipt of her reduced award,
I still occasionally meet with Kathy for a coffee and a chat. Although her experience has left her fragile, she has found the strength to transform her life. She now lives with her daughter, free from drugs and alcohol, free from violence and free from working the streets. She is an amazing woman and an inspiration to the many other women One25 support on Bristol’s streets.