Time Limits on Legal Claims by QLD Child Sex Abuse Victims to be Removed
2 August 2016 at 3:34 pm
The Queensland Government is to remove the legal limit for making claims for damages by victims of child sex abuse in institutions.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said legislation to remove the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse in institutions, such as schools, would be introduced to Parliament in August.
“I have met a number of victims of child sexual abuse.They are brave Queenslanders. They told their horrific stories to the royal commission,” Palaszczuk said.
“There is no time limit on their anguish or damage to their lives and their loved ones.
“The distress of the abuse often means victims do not seek immediate help and cannot come forward until their legal claims are time-barred.”
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the royal commission had recognised that child sex abuse in institutions was an area of the law that required a different approach.
“Time and again, through the harrowing stories told by survivors at the royal commission, it is evident these are issues that can take victims decades to be able to even report,” D’Ath said.
“We must work to ensure all those victims have their claims dealt with as efficiently as possible. But when necessary, they must also have the time they need to come forward.”
Victoria became the first Australian jurisdiction to remove time limitations on child abuse victims in 2015.
The Victorian Government introduced legislation to enable victims to sue their abuser or an institution no matter when the abuse occurred.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that victims of child sex abuse were often well into their adult years before they become sufficiently aware of what they had suffered, and had the confidence to discuss it, or have any prospect of seeking justice.
Currently under Queensland law, a child victim has three years from the time they turn 18 to bring a civil action before the court.
In addition to these legislative changes, the government said it would release an issues paper to seek stakeholder and community interest in broader civil litigation reform.
Key issues raised in the discussion paper include:
- whether the commission’s recommendation to remove limitations be extended beyond institutions to other settings, including families
- whether other forms of abuse, such as physical abuse or related psychological abuse, be included
- whether the current scope of damages is sufficient
- whether legislation should include a test for what is reasonable care to prevent child sexual abuse in institutions
- the financial and other associated impacts with implementing other royal commission recommendations regarding non-delegable duty
- whether the reverse onus should apply to all institutions. Recommendation 91 of the commission provides that all institutions should be liable for child sexual abuse, unless the institution can prove it took reasonable steps to prevent the abuse
- what “relationships” should be captured by a proposed reverse onus of proof
- whether the defendant has a responsibility to nominate an additional related entity with capacity to meet any award of damages or costs.