Lawyers call for law to change in child sex abuse cases

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 (26th 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.’