The Government has released a consultation asking for opinions on changing the law so that more people can pursue civil claims for abuse without time restrictions.

This consultation follows a series of recommendations from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The Government had already agreed that there was a serious issue the IICSA was addressing on limitation law and said it would look into changing the law to fix it.  The consultation looks into why the IICSA made its recommendations and what other countries have done to change their laws about abuse cases and asks what any reform might look like.

a child that is protecting himself from abuse and sexual assault.

It asks for feedback on eight possible changes:

  1. Getting rid of the three-year time limit for child sexual abuse cases. The Government doesn’t support this but is open to other changes.
  2. Making the defendant prove that a fair trial isn’t possible in child sexual abuse cases. The Government supports this because these cases are usually difficult to prove.
  3. Making clear the rules judges should follow in these cases, based on previous court decisions. The Government thinks this could be helpful.
  4. Not allowing old cases that have already been settled to be reopened. The Government agrees with this to keep things fair.
  5. Deciding if the definition of abuse should cover more than just sexual abuse. The Government thinks the focus should stay on sexual abuse for now.
  6. Changing the factors judges consider when deciding if the time limit should be extended for abuse cases. The Government doesn’t have an opinion myet and wants to hear more views.
  7. Deciding if the time limit for abuse cases should be longer than three years. The Government doesn’t think this is a good idea but wants to hear what others think.
  8. Creating a new set of rules for starting abuse cases, called a pre-action protocol. The Government is open to this idea but wants more discussion.

This consultation is a chance for everyone involved to think carefully about the IICSA’s recommendations and how changing the law could affect people. It’s important for everyone to share their thoughts before the consultation ends on the 10th of July 2024. Click here to find out more.

GLP Partner, Steven Astley commented, “In my view, it’s long overdue for this area of the law to be reconsidered. The current limitations on pursuing civil claims for abuse create significant hurdles for victims seeking justice and closure. These restrictions not only perpetuate injustice but also hinder the healing process for survivors of abuse. 

The impact of abuse can be lifelong, yet the legal system’s rigid time constraints fail to acknowledge the complexity of trauma and its effects on individuals. By maintaining outdated limitations, we are effectively silencing victims and denying them the opportunity to seek accountability for the harm they have endured.

Change cannot come soon enough in this regard. The importance of reforming limitation laws in abuse cases cannot be overstated. It’s not just a matter of legal technicalities; it’s about recognising the inherent dignity and rights of survivors to have their voices heard and their experiences validated.

The current system fails to adequately address the needs of survivors and perpetuates a cycle of impunity for perpetrators. Reforming limitation laws is not only a matter of justice but also a moral imperative. We owe it to survivors to create a legal framework that prioritises their well-being and ensures that they have access to the justice they deserve.

The longer we delay in addressing these issues, the more victims will continue to suffer in silence, and the greater the risk of further injustices being perpetrated. Change is urgently needed to ensure that the legal system serves the interests of justice and provides meaningful redress to survivors of abuse.

Want to know more? Consider reading “What constitutes a sexual assault?”