Historic day for child sexual abuse survivors

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Western Australians can now sue institutions in the name of their current office holders in cases of historical child sexual abuse. File picture

A BILL to end limitation periods for civil action by survivors of child sexual abuse has passed through both houses of State Parliament.

Removing the limitation periods via the Civil Liability Legislation Amendment (Child Sexual Abuse Actions) Bill 2017 means survivors of child sexual abuse such as Kirsty Pratt of Butler will be able to seek justice and compensation in Western Australian civil courts, regardless of how many years ago the abuse occurred.

Attorney General and Butler MLA John Quigley said the Bill provided a legal basis for suing institutions in the name of their current office holders for historical child sexual abuse and included provisions to overcome the difficulties that survivors may face in identifying a proper defendant.

Mr Quigley said the Bill included provisions overriding certain sections of the federal corporations law, which would enable office holders to access the assets of related trusts and corporations for the purposes of satisfying the judgement amount.

The Bill also ensures that survivors are treated fairly by introducing a cap on the legal fees that may be charged to a plaintiff in child sexual abuse cases.

Mr Quigley said until now most survivors of child sexual abuse had been unable to sue for damages because of limitation periods which were enshrined in legislation.

“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that the average time for a survivor to disclose child sexual abuse was 22 years,’’ he said.

“This means that many individuals have been denied justice because by the time they disclosed the abuse, the limitation period had passed.

“Today, with the passage of this Bill, we have removed limitation periods for all child sexual abuse actions, both retrospectively and going forward.

“Survivors of child sex abuse in Western Australia will finally be able to seek justice and compensation in our civil courts.

“The fact that these crimes may have happened many years ago should not be a barrier to seeking justice.

“I am pleased that today, the McGowan Labor Government with the support of both Houses of Parliament has been able to deliver on this extremely important and long overdue legal reform.”