The Andrews Labor Government will provide greater access to justice for child abuse victims, removing time limitations to civil claims for damages.
The Limitations of Actions Amendment (Criminal Child Abuse) Bill 2014, to be introduced today, will completely remove the limitation period for all relevant child abuse claims regardless of the time or context of the alleged abuse.
It delivers on the Government’s election commitment to implement the outstanding recommendations from the Betrayal of Trust report, arising from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations.
Currently, time limitations are one of the major barriers faced by victims of child abuse who wish to pursue legal action, and there is a complex range of limitations applying to civil claims dependent on circumstances.
Limitation periods often discourage victims from bringing their claims in court, and the expiration of a limitation period may be used against victims in negotiations – often to reduce the settlement amount offered.
The new Bill will apply to both past and future cases of child abuse. It will also recognise that the impacts of child abuse are not always confined to the primary victim and may potentially extend to the dependents of a deceased victim, such as family members.
Accordingly, the Bill will remove the current 12-year ‘long stop’ limitation period that currently applies to wrongful death claims brought by dependents of deceased persons where the wrongful death was caused by child abuse.
Quotes attributable to Attorney-General, Martin Pakula
“The trauma of child abuse can prevent victims from seeking immediate redress for the suffering they have caused, so our laws need to account for this – not penalise people for it.”
“This is about giving victims greater access to justice, allowing their suffering to be rightfully acknowledged and holding those to blame to account for the harm they’ve caused.”
“Victims should have the right to commence legal action knowing that an expired time limit won’t be used against them to knock their claim out of court.”