Limitation for child sex abuse cases
Limitation may be seen as an issue when dealing with child sex abuse cases as victims do not openly come out with what happened to them until many years, by which time their limitation period in which to bring a claim has essentially ran out. Nevertheless, there are cases which have looked at this argument to try to establish if the limitation period should be extended beyond what the law says. The following cases apply to this assessment:
- The case of A v Hoare (2008) was appealed and it raised the question of whether claims for sexual assaults and abuse which occurred many years prior the commencement of proceedings are barred by the Limitation Act 1980. Generally the period of limitation is 6 years from the date on which the cause of action accrues. This limitation period comes from the Limitation Act 1623 and is now contained in section 2 of the Limitation Act 1980. It follows that, if section 2 applies, claims are barred. However, sections 11 to 14 of the Limitation Act 1980 contain sections which create a different management for actions where the damages are in respect of personal injuries. In such cases the limitation period is 3 years from either the date when the cause of action accrued or the “date of knowledge” as defined in section 14, whichever is the later. In addition, section 33 gives the court a discretion to extend the period when it appears that it would be equitable to do so.
- The case of Stubbings v Webb (1993) is where our current law regarding limitation comes from. Stubbings was sexually abused as a child and it was not until she was 30 years old that she decided to sue the person who abused her. Her argument in court was that it had taken her many years to realise that as a result of being abused she was suffering from psychiatric injury. This situation can relate to many people who have been abused as children, where they do not realise the effects it has on them until later on in life.
In the case of Ablett v Devon County Council (2001) the judge explained that in child sex abuse cases there is inevitably a problem with limitation as those who have been victims of the abuse a fearful and confused and due to this they are silent. This means that allegations generally come out several years after the abuse has taken place.
Taking the above cases into consideration, the Law Commission and the courts recognise that sexual abuse claims will frequently require to be brought many years after the event.
Some victims of child sex abuse feel they want to start a legal investigation about what happened to them later on in life once they feel courageous enough to come out. If you are one of these victims then contact R.James Hutcheon solicitors to discuss your case with one of our legal experts. All information is kept confidential and we offer a sympathetic and understanding approach having been dealing with child abuse cases for 26 years.