Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
A not-for-profit organisation representing injured people

Lawyers call for law to change in child sex abuse cases

26 Nov 2019
APIL news

Survivors of historical child sexual abuse face an unfair, often unbeatable, legal hurdle to claim compensation for their suffering, lawyers have told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).


In England and Wales most personal injury compensation claims must be brought within three years. The clock starts for survivors of childhood abuse when they turn 18, so they are required to bring a claim by their 21st birthday.


The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has called for the time limit to be removed.  


“Survivors of non-recent child abuse are a unique category of claimant. They are some of the most vulnerable people in the civil justice system,” said Kim Harrison, executive committee member of APIL.


“Many survivors are unable speak about their abuse until years, or even decades, later because of feelings of fear, shame, guilt and the inherent fear of not being believed,” she told the IICSA panel today (26 November).


Judges are able to use some discretion in these types of claims, but this still leaves huge uncertainty for survivors. “If a claim is brought after the time limit and the judge does not allow it to proceed, the survivor will lose the case and will not receive the compensation he or she may need to start putting their experiences behind them and start focussing on recovery,” said Ms Harrison.


“The uncertainty often means that vulnerable survivors feel unable to bring their claims at all. The law must recognise that these claims will almost always be brought after the current three-year time limit.”


Notes to editors:

  • APIL is a core participant in the Inquiry’s accountability and reparations investigations.
  • The limitation law was reformed in Scotland in 2017, removing the three year time limit and moving the burden of proof to the defendant. This reform was welcomed by APIL.
  • APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) is a not-for-profit organisation whose members are dedicated to campaigning for improvements in the law to help people who are injured or become ill through no fault of their own.
  • For more information contact APIL's communications manager Jane Hartwell on t: 0115 943 5416, e:, or press and communications officer Lizzy Freeman t: 0115 943 5431, e:
  • Visit the association's website at
  • Follow @APIL on Twitter:

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