The Premier introduced a Bill to Parliament recently which, if passed, will create an exception to the three year limitation period for personal injury claims in instances where the injury has resulted from sexual abuse in an institutional context.

Limitation periods are a part of Queensland law to remove the threat of open-ended liability; to ensure a defendant is not unfairly prejudiced in proceedings through inability to access documents to defend the claim; and to ensure disputes are resolved as quickly as possible.

Presently, the victims of sexual abuse are required to bring their claim for damages within three years of suffering the abuse. If they are under eighteen years of age at the time of the abuse, the limitation period begins upon reaching that age. It became clear in the recent Royal Commission that some victims take up to 22 years to speak publicly about the abuse they have suffered – more than seven times the current limitation period.

Recommendations 85-86 and 88 of the Commission’s Redress and Civil Litigation Report concerned the removal of state and territory limitation periods. These amendments are largely in response to those recommendations and provide for an exception to the three year limitation period where the injury is caused by institutional sexual abuse. This amendment will apply retrospectively and as such many victims will now have access to justice through civil action in the Queensland courts.

Notably, the amendments preserve the right of the court to stay proceedings where it would be unfair to the defendant to proceed.

There are reports that the Queensland Government is considering the introduction of a redress scheme which will allow victims to access compensation without embarking on the inevitably expensive and stressful court process.

After its presentation to Parliament on Tuesday, the Bill was referred to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee for consideration until 1 November 2016. The Bill is supported by the opposition and is therefore likely to pass.

Follow these links to read more:

  1. Limitations of Actions (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016
  2. Explanatory Note
  3. Hansard

Robertson O’Gorman handles sexual abuse matters with utmost discretion. For experienced and comprehensive legal advice, call us today on 3034 0000.