The importance of time
The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 came in to force on 4 October 2017 and inserted a provision in to the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 which removes the three year time bar period in actions where a person seeks damages for abuse suffered as a child.
Personal Injury Actions
Normally, a claim for civil damages in relation to a personal injury must be raised within three years of the date of the incident in which the injury, or injuries, were sustained.
Alternatively the three year time limit will run from the date on which the claimant becomes, or ought to have become, aware they were able to raise a claim against the defender in relation to the injury (or injuries) suffered which can be attributed in whole or part to an act or omission by the defender.
Up until now, child abuse claims have been limited to 3 years from the date of the abuse or from the date of the victim’s 16th birthday. This was seen by many as barrier to accessing justice.
Removal of three year time bar in child abuse actions
This removal is retrospective, meaning the time bar is removed regardless of when the abuse occurred (with the exception of cases where events occurred prior to 26 September 1964).
Consequently there is no time limit in which a person must raise a civil damages claim in relation to child abuse.
Furthermore, under the Act it is possible for a person who has previously raised an action for civil damages in relation to child abuse to raise a new action on the basis that one of two conditions are met. The first condition is the previous action was disposed of by the court on the basis of the three year time bar period and the second is the previous action was disposed of by way of a settlement. If one of these conditions exist then a person may raise a new action to recover civil damages following the suffering of abuse as a child.
General Actions for Damages (non personal injury claims)
Generally, where a party has suffered a loss, a court action in Scotland for damages in relation to this loss must be raised within 5 years of the “appropriate date”. This contrasts with the 6 year general time bar period in England.
The 2014 case of David T Morrison and Co Limited (t/a Gael Home Interiors) v ICL Plastics Limited and Others determined the “appropriate date” to be the date upon which the claimant becomes, or ought to have become, aware they have incurred a loss.
In summary the removal of the time bar in claims for civil damages in relation to child abuse enables survivors of child abuse to consider pursuing a remedy in the civil court in Scotland.
It is however essential in all claims in the civil courts that you are aware of the time limits which exist in relation to raising a claim. Raising an action once the time bar has expired will in most cases result in the court dismissing the claim.