It has long been the case in Scotland that victims of historic abuse who have attempted to claim compensation from their abusers (or from those vicariously responsible for the acts of the abuser) have seen their claims falter as the courts have ruled that their claims are time-barred.
Anyone who had suffered abuse was expected to raise proceedings within 3 years of the abuse having occurred or, where they were a child when the abuse occurred, within 3 years of them becoming an adult at the age of 16 (in most cases). It is extremely common, however, for it to take abuse survivors many years to disclose that they have been abused (particularly where that abuse took place during their childhood) and to seek redress for the wrongs that have been committed against them. As a result of the way the law stood, however, they were prevented from achieving justice if they left it too long to seek legal advice and raise court proceedings.
On 4 October 2017, the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2017/3/enacted - will come into force. This will allow historic child abuse survivors to bring claims for compensation against their abusers or those responsible for them, where the abuse took place after 26 September 1964.
Claimants who have previously raised court proceedings but were wholly unsuccessful will be able to re-raise their claims. (Anyone who has received any compensation previously will not be able to claim again).
The change in the law does not guarantee, however, that anyone who now makes a clam will be successful. The court can still prevent a new claim from proceeding where the defender(s) can persuade the court that it will not be possible for a fair hearing to take place or where, as a result in the change in the law, the defender(s) would be substantially prejudiced were the claim to proceed.
The claimant will also have to prove that abuse (whether physical, mental or sexual) took place, that he/she has suffered loss, injury and damage as a result and that the defender should be held liable to pay him/her compensation for that.
The Scottish Government has published a guidance booklet about what the effects of the Act will be for claimants - Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 – What does it mean for me and what do I need to know about making a claim? – which can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00523624.pdf
Drummond Miller’s litigation team has represented several hundred abuse survivors over recent years and is experienced in handling what can be very sensitive and distressing cases for such clients. We currently represent a large group of abuse survivors in the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.
If you wish to make a claim in respect of abuse which you have suffered, whether as a child or as an adult, please contact Alan Rodgers – email@example.com or on 0141-352- 8388.
Your enquiry will, as always, be treated in the strictest confidence.