Scotland politics

Top lawyers against child abuse legal time limit change

upset girl Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The government announced an inquiry into historic child abuse earlier this year.

The body that represents Scotland's top lawyers has announced its opposition to Scottish government plans to end a time limit for survivors of historical abuse to seek damages in the courts.

The plans were announced in May, in tandem with a public inquiry into historical abuse of children in care.

It intends to end the current three-year time bar for civil action in cases of historical abuse.

But the Faculty of Advocates has warned against the change.

It claims the existing system, where claims dating back more than three years are examined on a case-by-case basis, provides "fairness to both parties".

The group said: "We do not agree that the current regime invariably leads to a pursuer's case failing. However, it does permit the fairness to both parties of allowing a case to proceed to be scrutinised and assessed."

Education Secretary Angela Constance announced the plans to lift the time bar in May at the same time as she revealed lawyer Susan O'Brien QC had been appointed to chair a public inquiry into historic cases of child abuse in care.

Consultation review

Speaking about ministers' intention to end the time bar, Ms Constance said: "It can take decades for a survivor to have the strength to challenge their abuser in court.

"Having listened to survivors and examined the legal position carefully, I can announce that this Scottish government intends to lift the three-year time bar on civil action in cases of historical childhood abuse since September 1964. We will consult on how best to do this in the summer."

The faculty highlighted that a time restriction "existed in nearly all developed legal systems in the world".

The group said the current restriction avoids the potential for evidence to be lost with the passage of time.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "In May the Scottish Government made clear that, following ministerial engagement with survivors of historic child abuse and engagement with stakeholders, including the Scottish Human Rights Commission and legal stakeholders, our intention is to remove the three-year limitation period, which currently constrains the rights of survivors of historical child abuse who wish to raise a claim for compensation through the civil courts.

"We have since consulted on the issue.

"We are currently reviewing responses to the consultation on how best to achieve our aim and are grateful to the Faculty for taking the time to respond formally to the consultation."

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