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Barrier to child abuse survivors seeking damages may be lifted

Draft bill would remove three-year time limit on people going to civil court.

Abuse: 'Huge steps forward for survivors'.
Abuse: 'Huge steps forward for survivors'. © SWNS Group

A draft bill to remove a barrier on people who were abused as children seeking civil damages in court has been published.

If approved, the legislation would remove the three-year time limit, also known as time-bar, on those who were abused on or after 26 September 1964, seeking damages in the civil court.

The Scottish Government said a consultation with survivors, supporters and other groups had helped shape the draft bill.

It also sets out circumstances for cases which have not succeeded in court due to time-bar being applied to be raised again.

The move has been welcomed by Sandra Brown, founder of the Moira Anderson Foundation, which supports people affected by childhood sexual abuse.

She said: "We see the draft bill, as well as the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, as huge steps forward for survivors of child abuse."

The Scottish Government said the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill is part of its "wider commitment to adult survivors of child abuse to fulfil the recommendations of the Scottish Human Rights Commission Inter-action plan".

Community safety minister  Paul Wheelhouse revealed the draft bill on a visit to the Moira Anderson Foundation in Airdrie, where he met survivors and volunteers.

One of the people he met was actor Matthew McVarish, who walked 10,000 miles around Europe to raise awareness of child abuse issues.

Mr Wheelhouse said: "It has been humbling to meet today with survivors and members of the Moira Anderson Foundation who provide such vital support to children and adults who have suffered abuse.”

He said the SNP intends to take forward or support the legislation in the next Scottish Parliament and will seek feedback on the draft bill prior to its introduction. He also thanked survivors and their supporters for helping to shape the bill.

Mr Wheelhouse said: "I know how difficult it has been for many to reopen such difficult memories to help shape our understanding and my colleagues and I are extremely grateful for the insight that survivors have shared with us.

"We will continue to engage with survivors as the bill progresses through parliament to ensure their views are considered at each and every step.

"We also welcome the views of other interested parties throughout the process that will unfold.”

Mr McVarish said: "The abolition of this limitation is long overdue but another positive step by the Scottish Government in supporting our many survivors and recognising the immeasurable impact sexual abuse in childhood has on individuals, well into their adult life."

Health improvement and mental health minister Jamie Hepburn announced a consortium of three groups will administer the Survivor Support Fund for people who were abused as children while in care.

The organisations in the consortium are Penumbra, Health in Mind and the Mental Health Foundation. They are said to be supported by a further 26 groups that provide services for survivors throughout Scotland.

The Scottish Government said the support fund’s budget of £13.5m over the next five years would be used to offer "more personalised, specialist services across the country".

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