NSW Bill removing time limits for child abuse litigation is welcome

18th Sep 2015

Amendments introduced into the NSW Parliament by NSW MP David Shoebridge would remove a significant barrier obstructing access to justice for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

The Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse) Bill 2015 proposes to remove any limitation period for civil claims made by victims of child sexual abuse, with retrospective effect. It is modelled on existing Victorian legislation, the Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015, which was passed in April and commenced in July.

ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison SC said, if passed, the amendments would assist victims of abuse who were seeking justice.

“This is an historic opportunity to demonstrate leadership on behalf of victims of child abuse,” Dr Morrison said.

“In Victoria, similar provisions removing limitation periods were passed in April and commenced as law in July this year.”

“The NSW Parliament how has an opportunity to make similar amendments and to act to ensure that survivors of abuse do not face this significant barrier in bringing claims for compensation,” Dr Morrison said.

“Such amendments would be the first step in ensuring increased equality in access to justice for survivors of child abuse who were previously unable to litigate.”

“In following Victoria’s lead, New South Wales would make this step a template for equality of access across the nation,” Dr Morrison said.

“Notwithstanding that this Bill emanates from another party, it is in accordance with option A in the discussion paper sensibly issued by the NSW government earlier this year. In these unusual circumstances it is submitted that the government should adopt the Bill.”

“The ALA hopes that the Bill will be readily passed by the NSW Parliament.”

Dr Morrison said it was appropriate that NSW adopt this legislation after Victoria, as Victoria was the first state in Australia to set up an inquiry into institutional child abuse, with the Betrayal of Trust report released in November 2013. NSW followed suit with the Special Commission of Inquiry regarding the Hunter region, which was released in May 2014.

“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, in its report released this week addressing civil litigation and redress, noted that current limitation periods are inappropriate given the length of time that many survivors of child sexual abuse take to disclose their abuse,” Dr Morrison said.

“The Royal Commission expressly recommended that limitation periods should be removed for claims for personal injury for institutional child sexual abuse, and that this change should be retrospective.”

“The Royal Commission further noted that if change is made, it should be consistent across jurisdictions,” Dr Morrison said.

“The NSW Bill provides for that consistency to begin to be rolled out across the nation – with the Victorian changes providing a template for national guidance.” 

Tags: Compensation Access to justice Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse