Time Limit for Filing Sexual Abuse Claims Extended by House of Lords

by John McKiggan

In an interesting decision released this week in the U.K. the House of Lords extended the time limit for filing a claim for compensation for sexual abuse.

In the U.K. the general rule is that the period of limitation for an action in tort is six years from the date on which the cause of action accrues. Claims for “damages for negligence, nuisance or breach of duty”, causing personal injuries have a limitation period of three years from either the date when the cause of action accrued or the “date of knowledge” (similar to the Canada’s “discoverability” rule).

The decision appears to grant broad discretion to judges in the U.K. to extend time limits for filing claims for compensation for sexual abuse.

Personally, my view is that there should be no time limit for filing claims for compensation for sexual abuse. In my experience representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse I have found that many (if not most) survivors do not disclose their experiences until later in life. Usually after the survivor has gone through years of counselling or therapy.

In Nova Scotia, this reality is recognized by Section 2(5) of our Limitation of Actions Act which says:

(5) In any action for assault, menace, battery or wounding based on sexual abuse of a person,

(a) … the cause of action does not arise until the person becomes aware of the injury or harm resulting from the sexual abuse and discovers the causal relationship between the injury or harm and the sexual abuse; and
(b) notwithstanding subsection (1), the limitation period …does not begin to run while that person is not reasonably capable of commencing a proceeding because of that person’s physical, mental or psychological condition resulting from the sexual abuse.

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