Territory Stories

Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017



Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017

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Parliamentary Record 5


Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




pp 1623 to 1686


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Tuesday 9 May 2017 1632 The second reading speech says: New section 5A removes the limitation period on actions for damages for personal injury arising from child abuse if that person was a child at the time of the alleged abuse. The child abuse covered by the amendment will be sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and psychological abuse arising out of the sexual or serious physical abuse, regardless as to whether such abuse took place in an institution. It goes on to say: There is no reason to limit the bill to apply only in instances of child sexual abuse, nor should it be limited to certain places where the abuse occurred, such as institutions. That is very important. As the minister said in the second reading, we are talking about psychological abuse, which can go on for many years. Some of the victims can start to believe they are guilty in what happened, which is part of what happens when psychological abuse takes place. To some extent they are coerced into covering up the abuse. It is good that the government has broadened the definition, if you can put it that way; even though it says serious physical abuse it is not defined in the bill. It sets a higher bar when it comes to defining sexual abuse. It also recognises the vulnerability of children and provides adequate time frames for survivors of child abuse to comprehend and respond to harm. The bill applies retrospectively, which is very important because it means limitation periods will not apply, regardless of when the abuse occurred. That is seen in various sections of the bill. Sections 54(1) and (2) allow those cases to continue on the grounds that the limitation period applying to the course of action had expired, which is key to this legislation. An important note in the second reading, which falls under section 5A(5) says: this section does not limit a courts power to summarily dismiss or permanently stay proceedings where the lapse of time has a burdensome effect on the defendant that is so serious that a fair trial is not possible. Regardless of the importance of these changes, we have to recognise that time can diminish peoples memories, and you need to have something in this bill which allows the defendant to have a fair trial or be heard where there is some doubt about the accusations because of the lapse of time that has occurred. Part (5) of section 5A says: This section does not limit: (a) any inherent jurisdiction, implied jurisdiction or statutory jurisdiction of a court; or (b) any other powers of a court arising or derived from the common law or under any other Act (including any Commonwealth Act), rule of court, practice note or practice direction. That is an important part of this bill to give it balance. There is no doubt this bill is a very important one. As other speakers have said, it has been introduced in other states such as New South Wales and Victoria. Any legislation which allows victims the right to take someone to court for sexual abuse, psychological abuse or physical abuse, no matter where it has occurred, is something that would rightfully be supported by all members of this parliament. I support it. Child abuse is one of those terrible crimes that causes distress to many young people, some not so young now. Hopefully those who have suffered will findperhaps this is not the right wordsatisfaction from the findings of the Royal Commission. No one can ever wipe away the pain caused by that abuse, but at least by having a Royal Commission those who were the cause of sexual abuse will be brought to justice. If this change to the Limitation Act can assist that, it is well worth supporting.