Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017
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
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Tuesday 9 May 2017 1630 affect the victim and loved ones. It is inconceivable to imagine suffering at the hand of abuse as a child only to be denied access to a civil court proceeding due to a limitation period when the effects of the trauma are so severe, long term and far reaching. A memorable quote from the Royal Commissions Redress and Civil Litigation report in relation to limitation period is as follows: The statute is designed for someone who has tripped over in K-Mart, it is not designed for victims of child sexual abuse. That is clearly the case when you consider how long the trauma can persist. That is why it is reasonable, given the nature of the effects of child abuse, that the limitation period be removed entirely. The Royal Commission made findings to the effect that limitation periods can be a significant barrier to victims perusing civil litigation against the perpetrators of child abuse. This can occur in a number of waysoften debate over the limitation period and whether or not a claim can extend litigation by years. The Royal Commission heard from a number of cases in which the claims of abuse were never heard or determined on the merits of the claim. There were a number of cases where victims were deterred from even commencing civil litigation due to the potential for substantial legal costs and time spent in litigation. Witness accounts testify to the fact that by the time they were ready to pursue civil litigations it was already too late. Research conducted by the University of Sydney Law School for the Royal Commission found that the abolition of a statute of limitations, or time limit, for the bringing of claims based on childhood abuse results in a marked increase in reporting of those incidents. If removing the limitation period prompts just one survivor of child abuse to report and helps just one victim achieve the justice they deserve, it will already be worthwhile. Child abuse, including sexual abuse, is a severe breach of trust at a young age and can have far-reaching and long-lasting affects for victims. They should not be denied the justice that civil litigations may provide, no matter how much time has passed since the damage occurred. This bill cannot erase the trauma suffered by victims of child abuse; however, removing the limitation periods for damages can help remove one of the barriers to justice, and the therapeutic impact of these changes should not be underestimated. This opposition has made it clear on a number of occasions that we are firmly on the side of victims of crime, and it is refreshing to see support for victims upheld in this parliament by way of this bill. Everything we do in this parliament should give due consideration to the rights of victims and should send a clear message that they are supported and protected, as that is our responsibility. Mrs WORDEN (Sanderson): Madam Speaker, I support this very important amendment to the Limitation Act. It is always important to look across all states and territories when considering implementing reforms. In the case of historical institutional child abuse it appears that all matters seem to fall back to the relevant state or territory to prosecute offences and for civil claims to be made. Therefore it is doubly important that each jurisdiction has its own contemporary legislation and that each jurisdiction does not enact legislation that is contrary to national thinking, particularly in important matters such as compensation for serious child abuse, including sexual abuse. It is important that the Territory looks at what other states and territories are doing. As the Minister for Justice pointed out in her introductory speech, other places such as NSW in 2016, Victoria in 2015 and the ACT in 2016 removed limitation periods in relation to damages claims resulting from child sexual abuse. Tasmania is drafting such appropriate legislation, and there is no doubt the Territory must do the same. Pleasingly, every state either has implemented or will implement legislation like we are doing with this bill. Our bill is most similar to that of New South Wales. Considering Australia continues to move through a difficult period of discovery regarding widespread historical institutionalised child abuse, it is important those victims have the opportunity to file for damages, as should any future victims. They should not be limited in time for claims. Many victims do not come forward until a long period has passed since the act was committed, for a range of valid and extremely personal reasons.
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