Should limitation be of relevance to recommendations for Redress?

The issue of Redress is an important consideration for any abuse Inquiry. Ireland has had direct experience via the Irish Redress Board and the Royal Commission in Australia has made its recommendations already on this subject. A report published this month by the University of Ulster titled “What survivors want from Redress” considers the views of survivors of institutional care establishments as to their expectations of a Redress Scheme.  While this is presented from a former resident perspective only it does present a window into the representations which will be made to the HIAI in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and the IICSA.

In addition to expectations of a Redress Scheme, and the wider scope of such a scheme beyond financial compensation, the issue of limitation is discussed.  It is clear there is limited appreciation of limitation and the impact on compensation among survivors. As noted in our blog yesterday on the consequences of the changes to limitation in Scotland, limitation is seen more than anything as a convenient barrier for organisations to use to prevent access to compensation. However, it is not necessarily so straightforward to just remove it.

In Ireland, in effect, limitation was not an issue as far as redress was concerned. In Australia it is recommended that limitation periods be removed. In Northern Ireland a redress scheme is to be recommended. A proposal to remove limitation in any such scheme would seem likely.

The present position in Scotland will undoubtedly have an impact in Northern Ireland and in England and Wales.  Already in Scotland a two tier system will result with those abused pre 1964 facing difficulties which are removed for those who have suffered abuse later than that. In England & Wales potential issues already arise for those abused pre 1954, in Northern Ireland pre 1953. Should redress fit within those timeframes or be based on a system of no limitation period, and if the latter how does that then fit with civil claims for compensation?

In all jurisdictions the road ahead remains uncertain and there will be many hurdles to jump but the safest bet would probably be that limitation will whenever possible be removed as a hurdle for victims and survivors. Any organisation which has faced claims in the past and repudiated them on the basis of limitation would be well placed to review them in preparation for those claims potentially arising again in the future.



Written by Fintan Canavan, partner

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