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Time Barriers Abolished for Abuse Survivors

The Queensland Parliament has passed legislation this week abolishing time limitations in historic cases of child sexual abuse.

Shine Lawyers has lobbied heavily for the removal of these provisions and welcomes this momentous change which will allow survivors who were previously denied justice to seek redress through the courts. The firm’s 2015 submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse called for time limitations to be lifted for historic abuse actions.

National Abuse Law Principal Lisa Flynn says these reforms would allow survivors to access justice and legal redress for the crimes of the past.

“Survivors of historic sexual abuse will now have their voices heard and after years of indifference, will finally have a chance to secure justice,” said Ms Flynn.

“These provisions previously meant that many survivors were compelled to under-settle their claims however these changes will now afford them the opportunity to seek proper redress through the courts,” she said.

“The reforms will go a long way towards acknowledging the wrongdoing of the past and enhancing survivors’ recovery into the future.”

While abolishing the time limitations is a step in the right direction, all the details of the redress scheme are not yet available. Here is what is known of the redress scheme so far:

  • Survivors of institutional sexual abuse can receive to $150,000 each in financial compensation;
  • Designed to avoid re-traumatisation of survivors of abuse;
  • The Commonwealth will lead the program, while states, territories and institutions, including churches, will be able to opt in.
  • The cost for just the Commonwealth over the 10-year period was estimated to be between $570 million and $770 million.
  • The scheme will commence in 2018 and run for 10 years, with an option to extend;
  • The government will establish an independent advisory council comprised of specialists including survivor advocacy groups, medical and legal experts who will advise on the implementation of the scheme;
  • Scheme would be well publicised to ensure those who were eligible for funding do not miss out.
  • The Commonwealth cannot compel institutions and state governments to participate in the scheme but intends to work closely with governments and entities representing institutions to ensure a national consistency;
  • The scheme will function on the basis that the ‘responsible entity pays’, as recommended by the Royal Commission;
  • The scheme will offer a ‘direct personal response’ for those survivors who request it, presumably from the offending institution(s), with options for counselling and monetary payments which aim to acknowledge the abuse and failures of the institutions and governments involved.

There are still many questions that need answers in relation to the proposed scheme, such as;

  • How the scheme will operate?
  • Who will be eligible for redress and who will be excluded?
  • What will happen if the states and institutions choose not to opt in to the scheme?
  • Will be limited to only sexual abuse in institutions or whether physical and emotional abuse may be included?
  • What will happen to abuse survivors who have already received monetary payments of less than $150K from institutions – will they be able to apply for further redress, like the Royal Commission recommended by way of a “top up”?
  • Will common law rights will be retained in addition to the redress scheme?

Shine Lawyers will continue its calls for legal reform across all jurisdictions in relation to limitation issues for abuse survivors.

Shine Lawyers Abuse Law Department provides legal advice and guidance to hundreds of survivors of abuse; helping them to access justice and acknowledgment for the wrongdoing they have suffered.  The team currently act in more than 300 matters concerning recent and past abuse within institutions.

Written by Shine Lawyers on . Last modified: April 4, 2017.

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