State Election: Limitation period for survivors of child abuse to seek justice removed, Liberals pledge

SURVIVORS of child abuse will no longer be prevented from pursuing justice in regards to historic sexual abuse cases.

Laws to remove the current six-year limitation period will be enacted in 2017 by the Government if the Liberals are re-elected, Premier Colin Barnett said today.

Mr Barnett said the Government would also remove limitation periods for serious physical abuse, recognising that this was also “traumatic and could have a lasting impact on a person’s wellbeing”.

The change would make WA one of only three jurisdictions – alongside New South Wales and Victoria – to remove limitation periods for physical as well as sexual abuse. The removal of limitation periods would not be limited to child abuse which occurred in an institutional context, allowing survivors to pursue civil actions against individuals as well as organisations.

“Survivors, regardless of where the abuse occurred, will be able to commence civil action without the barrier of limitation periods,” Mr Barnett said.

Labor spokesman for the Attorney General portfolio, John Quigley, said the Government was now making an election promise to pass reforms it blocked in 2016.

“The Liberals had their chance last year and they blocked introducing these laws. It was disgraceful; they played petty politics with some of the most vulnerable people in this State… (And) this came after they had cut the redress payments to victims,” he said.

“Our position has been consistent for a long time now. It was 2014 when I first committed to end the time limit to allow child sex abuse victims to take legal action. We reiterated that committment two weeks ago when we launched our law reform initiatives.”

Mr Quigley said Mr Barnett and Deputy Premier Liza Harvey had “come to their senses and supported our long-held policy”.

Ms Harvey said the Government recognised some survivors may have accepted out-of-court settlements for abuse they suffered in circumstances where the limitation period for their claim had expired, leaving them with no ability to take action in the courts.

“Our amendments will allow victims who have received out-of-court settlements for child abuse to have these settlements set aside by the court,” the Deputy Premier said.

“There will be no cap placed on the maximum damages that can be awarded to survivors; the court will determine the damages payable to a person who suffered child abuse.”

Attorney General Michael Mischin said the changes would not preclude victims who had previously received redress for sexual or serious physical abuse experienced as a child from commencing civil action.