ABI backs review on child sexual abuse claims limitation law

Child abuse

Exclusive: The Association of British Insurers believes that there is a need to review limitation law surrounding cases of child sexual abuse and has pledged to engage with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, survivors and lawyers.

The ABI’s u-turn on the issue follows insurers facing criticism for how they have handled CSA claims in the past. Survivors have blasted insurance lawyers as “velociraptors” over their “absolutely malevolent” handling of cases.

Under current law a CSA claim that is brought more than three years after a survivor turns 18 or more than three years after they become aware they were abused is time-barred.

However, in some circumstances the court can extend the primary limitation period.

In a letter to inquiry chair Alexis Jay, dated 5 June and seen by Post, ABI director general Huw Evans wrote: “The ABI previously considered that no change to the current law was necessary because the law allows courts to disapply the time bar, which they routinely do for CSA claims.

“However, we have listened to the compelling accounts of victims and survivors about the significant deterrent effect of the current law on limitation. No victim or survivor of abuse should be discouraged from seeking the compensation they may be entitled to. We now believe that there is a need for change and will support a review of the current law on limitation for CSA claims.”

Evans added: “We would therefore welcome the opportunity to engage with IICSA, law makers and other concerned stakeholders, including victims and survivors and their representative, to develop a more suitable framework for the law on limitation in CSA claims.

“In our view, any change to the current framework needs to strike a careful balance between not deterring victims and survivors from bringing a claim but recognising that it must be possible for defendants to have a fair trial.

“It must also be considered in light of other steps which can and should be implemented to achieve an earlier resolution of CSA claims, such as a dedicated pre-action protocol.”

IICSA

IICSA’s inquiry is made up of several strands, including multiple investigations and hearings into experiences of child abuse survivors.

In its accountability and reparations inquiry, insurers RSA, Zurich and Municipal Mutual Insurance (which went into run off in 1992) were taken to task over their handling of historic CSA claims spanning recent decades and back to the 1960s.

Ecclesiastical has also been more heavily involved other strands of the inquiry.

Limitation law for CSA claims ceased to apply in Scotland almost two years ago, with the introduction of the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act of October 2017.

It is expected to publish a report later this year, which could have wide-ranging ramifications on how CSA claims are handled.

In addition to potential changes to limitation law, lawyers have also suggested that redress schemes could be considered and a public liability insurance register similar to the industrial disease register could be put in place.

Lawyers also expect that mandatory public liability insurance for organisations caring for children could follow.

CSA claims are expected to rise in the coming years. Zurich predicted an increase from on average 400 to 450 claims a year to 600 for 2018.

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