The Limitation of Actions (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 has been introduced into the Queensland Legislative Assembly with the aim of finally taking the necessary steps to provide increased access to justice for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. The Bill is described by Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, as an historic occasion as it would retrospectively remove the limitation period for when a legal claim can be made relating to child sexual abuse.
Under current Queensland legislation, victims of child abuse can only initiate legal proceedings relating to historic child abuse within three years of turning eighteen. Ms Palaszczuk has condemned this three year limitation period as ‘woefully inadequate’ and isn’t sufficient time to allow victims of childhood abuse to come to terms with their abuse on a personal level. She went on to describe the process of commencing litigation as ‘daunting and arduous’ and young adults may not have the necessary emotional strength to make such an endeavour after already enduring the difficult task of overcoming their own personal torment. She went on to say:
“This will give them the opportunity to argue their claim in a time frame that will accommodate the hardships they are already facing. The changes we are making will remove one of the barriers to justice that many victims have felt has let them down.”
Primarily, the Bill will establish a program whereby the State would recognise that there is no time limit on suffering and thus ensure that victims have all the time necessary to come forward about their abuse. Queensland’s Bill falls slightly short of recent New South Wales and Victorian effort whereby legislation has been enacted to remove the limitation period for actions relating to child abuse more generally. Ms Palaszczuk justified the shorter scope of the Queensland Bill as a temporary measure to be broadened or tempered upon further community consultation. She said:
“It is important for my government to fully consider what broadening the scope of these recommendations would mean for Queensland, and consultation with the community and key stakeholders will inform that consideration. We are introducing this bill very promptly and, subject to this House, I would hope that the removal of the limitation period for institutional child sexual abuse actions could be in place in the first half of 2017.”
Queensland opposition leader, Tim Nicholls, has criticised the Bill as not going far enough. Mr Nicholls said he was “dismayed” to discover the Government’s reform would only extend to victims who suffered abuse inside institutions. He says:
“The LNP believes that by restricting the removal of the statute of limitations to only certain cases of child sexual abuse, there is an effective creation of two classes of survivors, that would be patently unfair.”
A private member’s Bill by MP Rob Ryne is scheduled to introduce a counter Bill into the Assembly later this week that would extend the removal of the limitation period to all instances of child abuse. Mr Pyne said:
“This should be important to all Queenslanders because it’s about doing justice for some of our most vulnerable people who have been abused and neglected in the past."
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Limitation of Actions (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, Bill, Explanatory Notes and Speech as published on LawOne
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