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Child abuse time bar change has resource implications, Faculty warns

19 January 2017

Relaxing the rules on time bar in civil cases alleging historical child abuse is likely to have resource implications for the courts, the Faculty of Advocates has predicted.

In its submission to Holyrood's Justice Committee on the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill, Faculty believes that an increase in the number of complicated cases is likely to result from the removal from such actions of the general three year limitation period for personal injury claims.

The committee has invited views on issues including the impact of the exemption on victims, those who might be sued, and the courts. Having previously opposed the measure, the Faculty comments are directed to the "mechanics" of the proposed change – while arguing that if the change is to be made, it should apply to all cases of alleged abuse and not only those in a care setting.

“It is likely that there will be an increase in the number of court actions. These actions are likely to be complicated and to involve evidential difficulties. These features generate resource implications for the courts”, Faculty states.

“As far as individuals involved in such cases are concerned… litigation is inherently stressful, with this subject matter being particularly so. Significant emotional impact on those raising actions, and on any surviving individuals against whom allegations are made, appears inevitable.”

It was “an important safeguard” in the bill that the court could dismiss a case if the defender demonstrated that it would not be possible for a fair hearing to take place, or that the defender would be subject to substantial prejudice if the case did proceed.

“We would suggest that there might be clarification as to… which factors it is intended should be taken into account”, the response adds.

Click here to view the full response. 

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