Scotland politics

MSPs lift time bar on childhood abuse compensation cases

A young girl Image copyright PA
Image caption Victims of abuse dating back to 1964 will now be able to seek damages through the courts

The three-year limit on survivors of childhood abuse suing for damages has been scrapped by MSPs.

The move allows victims of abuse dating back as far as 1964 to seek compensation for their injuries though the civil courts.

Victims currently have just three years from the date of their injury - or from their 16th birthday - to bring a court action.

The limit has been removed by the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Bill.

The bill was unanimously approved when MSPs voted in the Scottish Parliament, by a margin of 115 to zero.

The bill allows the three-year time bar to be lifted so long as the victim was a child under the age of 18 when they suffered sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

The pursuer must also be the person who has been abused - so relatives of victims who have since died will not be able to seek damages.

The individual responsible for carrying out the abuse can be sued directly, but damages can also be sought against employers for their current or former employees.

Image caption Child abuse survivors held a vigil outside Rosebery House when an inquiry into historical abuse opened in Edinburgh last month

The new law applies to anyone who suffered abuse on or after 26 September 1964, but not to victims who were abused before that date.

The legislation received widespread support, with all five parties at Holyrood backing it despite concerns about the financial impact on organisations such as councils.

Scottish government estimates of there potentially being 2,200 victims who would be affected by the change in the law have been described as "conservative".

'Remove barriers'

An independent Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry into historical child abuse is currently under way, led by judge Lady Smith.

More than 60 institutions, including several top private schools and church bodies, are being investigated.

Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing thanked survivors for their "bravery and persistence" in "not giving up their fight to set these injustices right".

She said: "While our police and prosecutors continue to pursue perpetrators even many years after their crimes, this bill will strengthen access to justice through the civil courts.

"Survivors have been let down repeatedly: they were severely and fundamentally let down by their abuser and by the adults who were meant to protect them at the time. While raising a civil action may not be the right way forward for everyone, this bill widens the options available to survivors seeking redress."