Limitation “holidays”

May 22nd, 2011

“Stop the clock” is a frequently heard refrain on many a game show, but it is a deadly serious one in historic abuse cases.

Whether we like it or not, as the law stands, limitation is invariably a potential problem in historic abuse cases.

Very simply the Limitation Act 1980 says that a victim of child abuse has three years from their 18th birthday to bring a claim before the courts, and if they fail to do so they are too late. A court does have discretion to disapply the time bar, but to do so is described as an “indulgence” and so that means there has to be a pretty good reason to do so. If there is an explanation for the delay, and provided there can be a fair trial then the Court may disapply the time bar and allow the victim’s case to proceed.

Now this is a very simplified explanation of the law, and victims thinking about bringing a claim must get legal advice. The purpose of this article is draw attention to what is often a live and difficult issue, and to consider carefully how best to deal with it.

Every day that passes the time bar issue gets worse, and so that has to be dealt with. By issuing court proceedings the clock stops. That is the time bomb stops ticking. It  does not explode, but is defused there and then.

Issuing court proceedings though is expensive, and more often than not the case is no where nerar ready for such a step. And so the best course is to persuade the potential defendant to agree to the clock stopping: “Stop the clock”! This can be done by agreeing a “limitation holiday”. Both  the victim and defendant agree to the clock stopping, possibly for a fixed period, or indefinitely. The agreement is usually on the basis that either party can argue, nevertheless, still argue whether the case is time barred or not.

Please do contact me to discuss limitation and the issues it throws-up.

 Alan Collins