Justice Committee backs Bill lifting time bar on Childhood Abuse civil litigation

20.04.2017

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has endorsed the general principles of the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Bill, but states that some aspects of the Bill need further consideration to ensure the right balance is struck.

The Committee has endorsed the principle of removing the time bar for childhood abuse actions, arguing that the benefits of enhancing access to justice for survivors should outweigh the concerns expressed about the changes. 

However, the Committee believes that the proposed changes to the law need to be carefully implemented to address the likely impacts on the finances and resources of bodies such as local authorities and charities, as they face historic claims and requests for information.

The impact of the Bill on survivors, who will need extensive support and guidance throughout any claim process, is also highlighted in the report. The Committee also recognises that this new avenue will not provide a solution for everybody. The Committee has urged the Scottish Government to consider remedies for people who suffered abuse before 1964 – a group this Bill cannot help.

Finally, the Committee noted evidence that re-hearing previously raised cases could have major legal ramifications and has asked the Scottish Government to give further thought to how this will work in practice.

Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:

“The Justice Committee is happy to endorse the general principles of this Bill. It became clear to us that the time bar had created a barrier to access to justice for cases involving historic childhood abuse. The Bill will help remove that barrier and give survivors a voice.

“That said, our evidence sessions raised serious questions in a number of areas that the Committee considers the Government must take on board before the final Bill is put to Parliament.

“In particular, the Committee asks the Government to address concerns around ensuring affected organisations have the resources they need, and how those survivors who won’t be covered by this Bill may still find a remedy.”

The stage 1 debate in the chamber is expected to be heard on Thursday 27 April.

Background

This Scottish Government Bill was introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson MSP, on 17 March 2017. It is available online: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/103883.aspx

The Committee's report is available here.

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