A new bill to end limitation periods for civil action by survivors of child sexual abuse has passed through both houses of parliament in WA. The change applies to past and future crimes.
The Civil Liability Legislation Amendment (Child Sexual Abuse Actions) Bill 2017 provides victims with a legal basis for suing institutions in the name of their current office holders for historical child sexual abuse. A statement from the Attorney-General John Quigley added that this would help to overcome the difficulties that survivors may face in identifying a proper defendant.
“Up until this point in time, most survivors of child sexual abuse have been unable to sue for damages because of limitation periods which were enshrined in legislation,” Mr Quigley said.
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that the average time for a survivor to disclose child sexual abuse was 22 years.
“This means that many individuals have been denied justice because by the time they disclosed the abuse, the limitation period had passed,” he said.
As part of the amendments, certain sections of the Federal corporations law will be overridden, with the effect of allowing office holders to access the assets of related trusts and corporations for the purposes of satisfying a judgement amount.
The new laws have also introduced a cap on the legal fees that may be charged to a plaintiff in sexual abuse cases, the A-G said.
“Survivors of child sex abuse in Western Australia will finally be able to seek justice and compensation in our civil courts,” Mr Quigley said.
“The fact that these crimes may have happened many years ago should not be a barrier to seeking justice,” he said.
The A-G added that he was pleased to see both houses of state parliament support the “extremely important and long overdue legal reform”.