Lawyers in Scotland are calling for a restriction preventing victims of historical child abuse from seeking justice to be lifted.
“As the law currently stands victims of child abuse must make claims for compensation within three years of the abuse taking place or by their 19th birthday, which is wholly unfair given the sensitive nature of the circumstances,” explained Gordon Dalyell, representative of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) in Scotland, a not-for-profit campaign group for injured people.
APIL is responding to a Scottish Government consultation to remove the limitation period for child abuse cases, which closes on 18 September.
“At the time of the abuse the victim would have been young, vulnerable, and may not have realised that what was happening was wrong,” said Mr Dalyell. “It can take along time for someone to recognise how the course of his or her life has been affected by the abuse endured as a child.
“They also may have repressed memories which surface later in life after suffering sexual,physical or psychological trauma. The law needs to recognise the reasons why victims do not always come forward to make claims sooner, and make provisions for them”.
Mr Dalyell said judges rarely exercise their power to use discretion and allow cases which are beyond the three-year period to proceed. “To lift the limitation period would introduce clarity and certainty for victims and the courts. It is also likely that more cases will settle out of court as the complication of limitation issues will no longer have to be dealt with,” he said.
“But ultimately it is only right in a fair and just society that victims should have the chance for their cases to be heard, no matter how much time has passed.”
Notes to editors:
• The Scottish Government consultation paper on ‘the removal of the three year limitation period from civil actions for damages for personal injury for in care survivors of historical child abuse’ is here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/06/5970
• 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 assistant press and communications officer Ben Yates on t: 0115 943 5431, e: firstname.lastname@example.org.