The Limitation of Actions (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (QLD) was assented on 11 November 2016 to become Act 59 of 2016. Other than retrospectively removing the limitation period for when a legal claim can be made relating to child sexual abuse, the Act will also make the historic move of introducing a class action regime to Queensland.
As mentioned in our previous article, the Act 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 Act 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 Act as a temporary measure to be broadened or tempered upon further community consultation.
The majority of the Act commences on Assent (11 November 2017) however some parts of the amendments to the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (QLD) and the Civil Proceedings Act 2011 (QLD) commence on 11 November 2017 and 1 January 2017 respectively.
In particular, the Act introduced (in Part 3, Division 1), an amendment of the Civil Proceedings Act 2011 (QLD) which included the insertion of a new Part 13A specifying conduct and practice for representative proceedings in the Supreme Court.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the move would bring Queensland into line with states like New South Wales and Victoria:
“At present, Queenslanders who wish to take class action lawsuits have to operate through other jurisdictions to do so. For people who are often involved in emotionally and financially difficult circumstances, this can limit their access to justice through unnecessary complexity and inconvenience. There can also be an additional cost burden for claimants who currently need to pursue class action matters through other jurisdictions. For cases that are particularly pertinent to Queensland, it will also allow the knowledge and expertise of our judges and lawyers to be better utilised.”
The reaction from the legal profession and the public has been largely positive. Law Society President Bill Potts drew on the recent experience of victims devastated by the Queensland floods, who were forced to file their class action in NSW due to the lack of jurisdiction in their home state:
"Class actions are often the only way that poorly resourced victims of disasters and other tragedies can uphold their rights, but for Queensland victims with a possible class action, the only option is to commence those actions in other jurisdictions."
Levitt Robinson Solicitors special counsel and class action lawyer Brett Imlay also welcomed the news saying:
"“This new legislation reflects the greater need for a class action procedure to be available in Queensland, [taking] away this imbalance and allowing individuals the opportunity to access justice and take on large corporations, financial institutions and government when they have been wronged in some way."
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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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