J, K, P v. Archbishop of Birmingham (QBD 25/7/2008) is one of the first cases decided subsequent to the House of Lords decision in A v. Hoare. The case concerned a procedural matter of whether the issue of limitation in respect of bringing sexual abuse claims should be decided as a preliminary issue or at the substantive trial.
The claims would normally be out of time (the claims dated back to the 1970/80s) save that the court now, post A v. Hoare, has a discretion to extend time limits in certain cases. The judge in J, K, P v. Archbishop of Birmingham found that it would be difficult for a judge to exercise his discretion as to limitation without considering the merits of the claim. This would involve considering a large amount of material (both factual and expert) which was not appropriate for a preliminary hearing.
Accordingly, the issue of limitation should be dealt with at trial. This finding was also supported by the judge's view that it would be more stressful for the claimants, J, K and P, if they had to give evidence twice, initially at the preliminary hearing and then potentially at the substantive trial.
This case suggests that any issue on limitation for abuse claims which relies on the court's discretion to extend time limits is more likely to be decided as part of the substantive trial. For defendants (and their insurers) this may mean that claims are brought all the way to trial without knowing whether those claims are in fact time barred.