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Abolish sexual abuse case time limit

April 13th 2021

Thinking it over with Carol Fish Director & Head of Serious and Catastrophic Injury…

Children being subjected to sexual abuse is too horrific for many of us to contemplate.

Yet, as has been highlighted in the media recently, it can be taking place in schools, religious, sporting or other institutions, as well as within families.

Understandably the trauma means it can take many survivors a number of years to come forward.

Yet, incredibly, we still have a law in England and Wales that children who have been subjected to sexual abuse only have until three years after their 18th birthday to make a compensation claim relating to that abuse.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), of which I am a member, is calling for that time limit to be abolished, just like it was in Scotland in 2017.

APIL is urging the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, to address this issue when it makes its final report next year. 

The Inquiry, (www.iicsa.org.uk), launched 15 investigations to give a voice to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, to enable it to understand how institutions have failed to protect children and make practical recommendations to ensure better institutional protection for children in the future.

The Inquiry also heard evidence from 648 witnesses in person, 94 of whom gave evidence as survivors, during 323 days of public hearings which ended in December.

At least, like with mental health, such high-profile inquiries mean we are starting to talk openly about sexual abuse. But there is still such a long way to go.

I have experience of acting for a range of survivors of historic child sexual abuse and have seen the devastating effect it has on them and their families.

It can be even more damaging than a serious physical injury as the emotional and psychological effects can be with them for the rest of their lives.

It seems outrageous that a person might come forward many years later to claim compensation for sexual abuse only to be told “you are out of time”.

Just look at what the ex footballers featured in the recent BBC TV documentary Football’s Darkest Secret had to go through.

Former Man City, Liverpool and Spurs striker Paul Stewart was among those to reveal the devastating effect being abused as young footballers had on their lives.

In an inquiry report last month which found the Football Association guilty of “an institutional failure”, Clive Sheldon QC revealed there had been 692 known survivors of child sex abuse in football and 240 suspects, but warned that “the actual level is likely to be far higher”. The FA, Premier League and EFL have since apologised to survivors.

The football child abuse scandal saw police receive more than 2,000 referrals involving more than 330 clubs and resulted in the conviction of former youth football coach Barry Bennell.

Schools are the latest institutions under the spotlight with police saying they are set to take a similar approach to how they investigated the football allegations.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, lead officer for Operation Hydrant, the national task force for child sexual abuse investigations in institutions, said: “This goes right across the whole of the education section…and I think it is the next big national child sexual abuse scandal.”

More than 8,000 allegations have already been made by school pupils on the Everyone’s Invited website (www.everyonesinvited.uk) gathering testimonies of sexual violence and abuse.

What is vitally important is that when survivors do come forward from these, or any other, inquiries and investigations that they are listened to and supported all the way through any legal process by professionals who are here to help.

To contact Carol Fish, call 01228 516666.

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