BILL ABOLISHING LIMITATION PERIODS IN CHILD ABUSE CASES PASSED WITHOUT AMENDMENT
The Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Bill 2015 (the Bill) has been passed without amendment and is now law having been given Royal Assent on 21 April 2015.
The passing of this legislation is a credit to all Victorian Parliamentarians who gave the Bill bipartisan support. It is also a credit to the many advocates and campaigners who fought to for the establishment of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse which have directly led to the passing of the Bill and which will hopefully open the way for further justice for victims of child abuse.
Victoria is the first and only state to abolish limitation periods in child abuse cases. Other states should be urged to follow suit. The Royal Commission has commented many times on how important it is to victims of child abuse that there is consistency and transparency in how claims are dealt with. It is a slap in the face for all those victims who suffered abuse interstate that limitation periods still mean that they may be unable to seek justice in the courts.
Having said that, Victoria and other states still have a long way to go. The “Ellis” defence which we have written about previously is still a very significant barrier in suing a number of churches. In addition, for many victims of child abuse, their claims would still be hopelessly compromised in terms of litigation by the effluxion of time and in particular those victims who cannot identify their victims or where the institutions no longer exist or have no money will still effectively be locked out of the civil courts.
So whilst law reform in this area is still vital, there is also still a pressing need for a Redress Scheme to be established so that the suffering of all victims of institutional child abuse can be recognised.