The Queensland State Government is set to introduce new laws that will allow survivors of sexual abuse to make civil claims for compensation notwithstanding that the abuse or offence occurred many years ago.
One of the long-standing legal obstacles for survivors has been the existing legislation in Queensland (and with similar law in each of the other Australian States) restricting the entitlement to sue for a defining period of 3 years after the offence or (when the offence occurred to a child) the person had until their 21st birthday to commence the claim in Court.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse highlighted as part of its report that the limitation on the making of civil claims for compensation, which is commonly referred to as the “statute of limitations”, was an arbitrary and unfair obstacle. The statute of limitations was prescribed (when it was first introduced in 1974) in the context of claims involving insurance companies, so there was a rational that it was of benefit in the context of claims by persons who suffered injury in motor vehicle accidents, as an example.
Such a prescriptive bar to otherwise genuine claim for financial support by victims of sexual abuse was considered by the Royal Commission to be unfair and overly in favour of the offender. A central part of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission was that the States of Australia pass laws to allow people to sue regardless of when the abuse occurred.
Queensland is now set to join Victoria and New South Wales in abolishing the statute of limitations.
This is a very significant and positive legal development. MBA Lawyers applauds the Government’s action in this regard, recognising the benefit that such change of law will make for survivors of sexual abuse.
MBA Lawyers are long standing supporters of the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence (www.stopsexualviolence.com).
MBA Partner, Mitchell Clark authored the Chapter on civil rights in the S.T.E.P. legal resource (STEPping through the process: criminal and Civil processes for adult victims/survivors of sexual violence and their advocates), the third edition of which was recently launched by the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence in partnership with Bond University. If you are interested in receiving this helpful resource, please contact us or contact the Centre directly.
MBA Partner Mitchell Clark with Di MacLeod, Coordinator of the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence at the Launch of the STEP legal resource at Bond University on 26 October, 2016.