NSW govt applauded for plan to abolish child abuse limitation periods
5th Nov 2015
A commitment by the New South Wales government to abolish limitation periods for victims of child sexual abuse to seek compensation for personal injury is a welcome development in the fight to bring justice and closure for victims, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison SC welcomed the NSW government’s announcement to abolish the limitation period, which will be considered in conjunction with a comprehensive package responding to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The move would parallel similar amendments introduced in Victoria, which commenced as law on 1 July 2015.
Dr Morrison called on all governments to introduce similar amendments and complete a framework to better support survivors of abuse.
“The ALA congratulates the NSW government for its announcement which could remove limitations and finally provide a pathway to justice for survivors of abuse,” Dr Morrison said.
“This move is a welcome outcome, and is in keeping with findings that survivors can take in excess of 20 years to disclose abuse.”
“The ALA urges the NSW government to closely consider adopting Option A in the ‘Limitation Periods in Civil Claims for Child Sexual Abuse’ discussion paper issued by the NSW government earlier this year,” Dr Morrison said.
Dr Morrison said he looked forward to examining the details of the amendments when they are tabled in Parliament next year. He said it was important that other states look closely at introducing similar amendments as soon as possible to ensure that justice remains equally available for all Australians.
“If the NSW Parliament follows the all-party decision in the Victorian Parliament earlier this year and abolishes limitation periods, this will offer leadership to the nation which could see other states and territories fall into line,” Dr Morrison said.
“It is time for all states to introduce similar legislation to ensure that there is a consistent approach nationwide for survivors of abuse to be able to access justice. This is important so that survivors, no matter what state is applicable to their legal claim, would not face this significant barrier,” Dr Morrison said.
It is anticipated that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will discuss institutional responses to child sexual abuse, and the recommendations of the Royal Commission, at its next meeting.
Dr Morrison said that the proposed amendments were a timely reminder that there are many victims of historical child sexual abuse who still seek justice for treatment they suffered decades ago, and that justice is still available at common law.
“It is clear that institutional responses to child sexual abuse to date have been grossly inadequate,” Dr Morrison said.
“Governments must ensure that their responses will provide justice to survivors and open the way forward for fair compensation.”