Is there a time limit for bringing claim for sexual abuse or assault?
Yes, the law states that any claim should be brought within three years of the date of the incident of abuse or where there is a pattern of abuse, three years from the date that the last incident occurred. If you were a child when the abuse occurred then the three years does not start to run until you turn 18 and your claim should be brought before you turn 21.
The courts do have a discretion to allow your claim to be brought long after the time limit has passed, so if your claim appears to be out of time you should still seek advice from a specialist solicitor.
The abuse happened many years ago, can I still claim?
Yes, even where you are outside the usual three-year time limit it is still possible to claim compensation for historic of childhood abuse.
The Courts have a discretion to allow your claim to proceed despite the fact that you are bringing it out of time. Your solicitor will put together the best case possible and gather the necessary evidence to persuade the court to waive the time limit and allow you to proceed.
Our institutional sexual and physical assault and abuse compensation calculator will give you an idea of what compensation you could be entitled to claim.
What is ‘Limitation’
‘Limitation’ is a legal term that you may hear your solicitor use. It refers to the time limit and comes from the Act of Parliament that sets out the law in relations to time limits for claiming. The act is called the ‘Limitation Act 1980’ and it sets out timescales within which actions can be brought for breaches of the law.
There are a few other terms and phrases your solicitor may use when advising you and discussing the time limit for your case, these include:
- ‘Primary Limitation period’
In abuse compensation claims this refers to the initial three-year period. So, if your solicitor says the primary limitation period has expired, they just mean that that the three year period has now passed.
- ‘Bringing a claim out of time’
this refers to pursuing your compensation claim after the three-year period has expired
- Section 33 discretion
this is one that abuse lawyers use a lot. It simply means the list of factors, contained in section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980, that the court will consider when deciding whether you should be allowed to bring your claim out of time
- Can there be a fair trial?
When your solicitors talks about the judge weighing up whether there can be a ‘fair trail’ when deciding whether he/she should allow your claim to proceed despite the fact the primary limitation period has expired, your solicitor is referring to the balancing exercise the judge has to undertake, taking into account all the relevant factors listed in the Limitation Act.
What factors will the court take into account when deciding whether I can bring my claim out of time?
Where there is a delay in bringing your claim and you are outside the usual three year period, the law directs the court to have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including:
- The length and or reasons for the delay in bringing proceedings
- Whether the delay has meant that the evidence in the case had become less clear The conduct of your opponent in relation to how they have conducted themselves in response to your case
- Whether you have acted promptly and reasonably once you know that you could take action
- The steps you have taken to obtain advice and the nature of the advice you have received.