The three-year time limit on cases of childhood abuse has been lifted by Scottish Parliament.
This is a monumental step forward for survivors of abuse who previously may not have been able to bring civil claims for damages.
The time bar has been removed by the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Bill, which was unanimously approved when MSPs voted.
This is an incredibly important milestone in legislation surrounding abuse claims and a positive step forward in getting justice for survivors of abuse in Scotland.
Click here to view the video.
What Does The Bill Mean?
Survivors of abuse will now be able to seek compensation for their injuries in the civil courts, if the abuse dates back to 1964 or they were under the age of 18 at the time of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
Previously, victims could only seek a personal injury claim up to three years after the abuse had taken placed, due to the strict interpretation of the “time bar”. This restriction has since been removed.
Leading abuse lawyers at Slater and Gordon contributed to this decision by responding to a consultation on the proposed removal of this time bar in September, 2016.
Our response highlighted a number of reasons why clients often take much longer than three years to pursue legal action against their abusers, such as silence, fear and shame.
Silence allows perpetrators to get away with attacks on their victims and survivors of childhood abuse are often pressured into secrecy so they daren’t share what has happened.
Worse still, many children who have reported abuse were not believed by the authority figure they confided in. A real-life example of this has recently been dramatised in the BBC’s ‘Three Girls’, which depicted the horrifying ordeal young girls abused in the Rochdale grooming scandal went through, only to be ignored by social services.
What is Next in Bringing Justice For Abuse Survivors in Scotland?
An independent Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into historical child abuse is currently under way, led by Judge Lady Smith. The inquiry involves investigations into 60 institutions, including church bodies and private schools.
Looking at the bigger picture, in order for police and the courts to effectively pursue abusers and bring them to justice, sufficient funding must be made available to them.
Survivors of abuse must be made aware that by speaking out about abuse, help will be available.
Lifting the time bar is an important step in making survivors of abuse in Scotland aware it is not too late to seek justice.
What must happen next is the introduction of a mandatory reporting law.
This would mean for anyone in an organisation with a duty of care, any suspicions of abuse must, by legal obligation, be reported to authorities.