Time limits on legal claims by child sex abuse victims to be removed

Published Tuesday, 02 August, 2016 at 12:54 PM


Premier and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for Training and Skills
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

The Palaszczuk Government will ensure greater access to justice for victims of child sex abuse in institutions, by removing the legal limit which can hamper their ability to make claims for damages.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said legislation to remove the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse in institutions, such as schools, will be introduced to Parliament this month.

"I have met a number of victims of child sexual abuse. They are brave Queenslanders.  They told their horrific stories to the Royal Commission," the Premier said.

"There is no time limit on their anguish or damage to their lives and their loved ones.”  

“My Government will ensure there is no time limit on justice."

"My Government will remove that barrier.  The distress of the abuse often means victims do not seek immediate help and cannot come forward until their legal claims are time-barred," the Premier said.

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,” said Mrs D’Ath.

“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.”

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that victims of child sex abuse are often well into their adult years before they become sufficiently aware of what they have suffered, and confident to discuss it, to 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 will also release an issues paper to seek stakeholder and community interest in broader civil litigation reform based on the Recommendations 85 to 95.

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; and
  • Whether the defendant has a responsibility to nominate an additional related entity with capacity to meet any award of damages or costs.

Media contact: Kirby Anderson (Premier's office) 0417 263 791