The abuse team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers have submitted a response to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse consultation on Accountability and Reparations for Victims/Survivors of Abuse.
Our response examines some of the failings within the civil justice system, and how the system can be changed to improve support services and legal remedies available to victims and survivors.
Our response is written in the light of many concerns regarding inadequate support services, obstructive insurance companies and a civil justice system that may not deliver genuine reparation. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will also examine the adequacy of other compensation schemes, including awards made following conviction in criminal proceedings and awards by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
Point 14 in the submission sets out some thoughts on what changes could be made to the civil claims process in order to make it easier for victims and survivors to achieve accountability and reparation. We believe that limitation periods should be abolished entirely in abuse cases. This has already occurred in most provinces of Canada, much of Australia and is likely to take place in Scotland. In those countries, it has been recognised that child abuse is frequently accompanied by secrecy, shame and fear; as a result, victims and survivors of abuse often make many years to summon up the psychological strength to disclose abuse. In this sense child abuse is different from other types of personal injury – the delay in disclosing is a direct result of the harm caused by abuse.
Laws which abolish limitation periods for abuse claims clearly represent a radical change. In our view, however, the abolition of time limits entirely in this type of case is a sensible and welcome step, recognising that justice is best served by treating child abuse victims as a special class of claimant. The Scottish proposal seems likely to pass in the Scottish Parliament and become law this year or early next year. To ensure consistency and fairness, and in keeping with international developments, similar legislation should be adopted in England and Wales.
Our comment on the issue of the civil justice system is available to read here.
Richard Scorer is a Principal Lawyer in the abuse team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Slater and Gordon have the UK’s most experienced team of abuse lawyers and are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse.
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