Time limit lifted on damages in child abuse cases in Scotland

Written by Jenni Davidson on 23 June 2017 in News

The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill will allow survivors of child abuse to pursue civil claims with no time limit on cases

Girl hiding - Image credit: Fotolia

A bill lifting the time limit on damages for child abuse cases has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs unanimously voted to approve the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill yesterday.

The bill removes the current three-year limitation period for personal injury actions in cases of child abuse where the person was under 18 at the time of the abuse.

It will apply to all cases of child abuse after 26 September 1964.


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The aims of the bill have attracted broad support, but some concerns have been raised about the potential costs to organisations such as councils, religious organisations and charities of paying out compensation for a large number of historic cases.

In its submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee, local government umbrella body COSLA said: “COSLA supports the intent of the legislation is and is clear that removing any barrier to justice for survivors of historical childhood abuse is a positive move.

“However, despite our strong support for the legislation, we recognise that it will have a potentially significant financial impact on local government.”

As well as the bill, the Scottish Government has made other commitments to survivors of abuse.

These include investment of up to £3m per year between 2016 and 2021 to expand and enhance support for survivors of abuse in care and an additional £1.8m in 2017-18 to improve services for adult survivors of child abuse.

It has also established a public inquiry into the abuse of children in care which is being carried out at the moment.

Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing, said: “I would like to thank survivors who have been at the heart of this process – for their bravery and their persistence, for bringing to our attention the plight and injustices they have suffered, and for not giving up their fight to set these injustices right.

“I am humbled by the courage they have shown, not only in campaigning for this legislative change but also coming forward and sharing their experiences.

“While our police and prosecutors continue to pursue perpetrators even many years after their crimes, this bill will strengthen access to justice through the civil courts.

“It recognises the unique position of survivors of childhood abuse as children who were betrayed by those they should have been able to trust – reflecting the abhorrent nature of the abuse, the vulnerability of the child at the time, and the profound impact of abuse; an impact which lasts well into adulthood and which, itself, prevents people from coming forward.

“Survivors have been let down repeatedly: they were severely and fundamentally let down by their abuser and by the adults who were meant to protect them at the time.

“While raising a civil action may not be the right way forward for everyone, this Bill widens the options available to survivors seeking redress.”

The reform is fulfils one of the recommendations from a consultation the Scottish Human Rights Commission carried out with survivors and other key stakeholders.

The recommendations also called for an apology law to be considered and the Scottish Government supported the Apologies (Scotland) Act 2016, which is intended to promote a change in attitudes to apologising and allow recognition of past events.

The Apologies (Scotland) Act 2016 came into force fully earlier this week.

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