Historic Abuse and Statute of Limitations

Limitation in historic abuse claims has been a controversial concern for some time as strict application of the statute on Limitation can result in unfair outcomes.

As a consequence there is a groundswell of support for review and revision of limitation periods in such cases.

There is a current lack of uniformity.

In England and Wales primary limitation periods remain subject to a three year period from when a claimant reaches majority (age 21), albeit subject to discretion to extend the period in certain circumstances.

However in other jurisdictions change is already afoot and embedded.

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Old claims

In the case of RC v The Salvation Army (Western Australia) Property Trust [2021] WADC 117. The Court in Australia considered allegations made by a claimant over 60 years after events in question.

In summary, RC alleged that between 1959 – 1960 he was placed at Nedlands Boys’ Home which was operated by the Salvation Army. Whilst there he was sexually abused by an officer at the home.

In response to the claim for damages the defendant sought an order to permanently stay the case on the basis that they had exhausted all reasonable inquiries. Given the age of the allegation it was unable to meaningfully defend the action. It argued that it would not be in the interests of justice of the case to continue.

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Former Archbishop of Perth deposed over abuse cover up

On 13 December 2021 the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Revd. Geoffrey Smith issued a statement advising that the Episcopal Standards Board of the Anglican Church of Australia has determined that Roger Herft, formerly Archbishop of Perth and Bishop of Newcastle, was unfit to remain in Holy Orders and that he should be deposed. This means that he will no longer be recognised as an ordained member of the Anglican Church. Mr. Herft chose not attend or be represented at the Board’s hearing.

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The recovery of damages from abusers

Upon conclusion of a claim for damages for the consequences of sexual abuse, an organisation which has been held vicariously liable for the perpetrator of the abuse should give consideration to the possible recovery of all or a contribution to the paid damages and costs from the abuser pursuant to the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978.

The above Act allows defendants to pursue the individual guilty of the wrongdoing for damages and costs within the limitation period of two years once the original claim has concluded (either from the date judgment was given or damages agreed). The right to recover from the abuser is provided regardless of whether the recovering party were held liable or admitted liability in the original action.

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Scottish in-care redress scheme to open for applications from 7 December 2021

This week, a committee at the Scottish Parliament approved regulations, link here, to bring all remaining provisions of the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Act 2021 into force on 7 December 2021.

Also this week, Scottish Government issued a statement of principles regarding financial contributions, link here, and a related information note, link here. In summary of certain key points:

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Women’s Tennis Association say that tennis star ‘deserves to be heard’ on sexual assault claims

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) say that the female Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai deserves to be heard after having made public allegations that she was sexually assaulted by the country’s former vice-premier.

In a post made earlier this months on a Chinese social media site Peng says that she was forced into a sexual relationship with Zhang Gaoli. Zhang who served as China’s vice-premier between 2013 and 2018 has not responded to the allegations.

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An update on work at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

The scheduled return to witness hearings at the Scottish Abuse Inquiry’s (SCAI) new venue at Mint House, 20 West Register Street, Edinburgh, was postponed from 6 to 8 October 2021. On reconvening in the morning of 8 October, Lady Smith, Chair of SCAI, apologised for the delay, explaining that it was “unavoidable and was due to the requirements of the last items of snagging work.”

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Apple to scan iPhones for child sexual abuse images in USA

Apple has announced that the new versions of its operating system (iOS 15) due to be released later this year will have new applications to help restrict the spread of child sexual abuse material for customers in the USA.

Before an image is stored onto iCloud (Apple’s storage service that allows users to store documents/photos/videos on remote servers), the technology will search for that image against other images flagged as a child sexual abuse image and if a match is found, a human reviewer will assess the results and will report the user to law enforcement.

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo resigns following allegations of sexual harassment

Allegations by several women of sexual misconduct have been made against the ex-Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo has been accused of inappropriate touching and kissing and of creating a “hostile and toxic work environment”. It has been suggested that he abused his power during his time as governor and Joon Kim who co-led the investigation described his lead as “a culture where you could not say no to the governor and if you upset him or his senior staff you’d be written off, cast aside or worse.”

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