At last month’s three day public hearing, the inquiry heard from various parties, such as insurers, local authorities, and solicitors that represent victims and survivors, as well as those that represent insurers and other organisations.
The key topics for discussion centered around limitation and redress, and how this impacted all relevant stakeholders in claims for child sexual abuse.
Solicitors representing victims and survivors shared the view that limitation at the outset played a significant role as to whether to take on an instruction. Despite the discretion the court has to set aside limitation at s33 of the Limitation Act 1980, victims and survivors’ perception of limitation was that it was a barrier to them pursuing a claim.
For those representing organisations, whilst sympathetic to the challenges that victims and survivors face, the issue they faced was the prejudice suffered by the passage of time and how this impacts the cogency of the evidence, and consequently, the possibility of a fair trial.
The various panels invited to give evidence on the issue of limitation appeared to welcome the implementation of a pre-action protocol which all could abide by. The need for certainty was welcomed, rather than having to run test cases, as has been the position in the past. Others had differing views about what would assist the process, such as the burden of proof switching to the defendant in terms of whether a fair trial would be possible, and the removal of the claimant having to explain the reasons for coming forward with the claim, which was felt by claimant representatives to often be distressing or intrusive.
As to redress, there was consideration of whether compensation schemes could assist as, whilst they would often not meet all of the victims and survivors’ needs, they were capable of meeting some requirements, tended to be less stressful than litigation, and ensured quicker access to compensation once the scheme was up and running.
Other discussions centered around redress other than compensation, such as access to therapy, and a payment or trust for education or training.
The hearing was adjourned until February 2020, when further panels will be heard, and core participants will have the opportunity to advance their closing submissions on the matters for the Inquiry to consider.
Written by Amanda Munro at BLM