Until recently, the Australian Capital Territory had only abolished the time limitation for personal injury claims relating to childhood historical sexual abuse.   

On 10 December 2022, amendments to the Limitation Act 1985 and the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 (ACT) came into effect. The amendments updated the definition of ‘child abuse’ within the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 (ACT) to now be “physical abuse or sexual abuse of a child”. As the definition of ‘child abuse’ within the Limitation Act 1985 (ACT) is referenced to the provisions within the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 (ACT), these amendments effectively remove the limitation period for physical abuse.  

In light of the above, this article is now to be read as an update to the following previous articles written by Emily Wright regarding Australian Capital Territory Abuse Law processes: 

Of note, s114AA(2) of the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 (ACT) provides that physical abuse “does not include conduct that is justified or excused under a law applying in the Territory.” 

Whilst the Australian Capital Territory has now abolished the time limit for personal injury claims in relation to childhood sexual and physical abuse, it is still possible for a defendant to argue that, due to the time that has passed since the alleged abuse occurred, the defendant will suffer prejudice if the claim proceeds to a trial and is not permanently stayed or dismissed. For further information on this, please refer to Emily Wright’s blogs regarding Permanent Stay of Proceedings in the Abuse Law area. 

Australian Capital Territory Abuse Law Claims – In a nutshell

To commence an Australian Capital Territory childhood sexual or physical abuse claim, the initial steps are to obtain any relevant records and serve a Personal Injury Claim Notification form on the appropriate defendant entity. The next milestone step is for a claimant to attend a medico-legal examination (maybe two examinations) with the appropriate medical expert/s (in these cases it is typically with a psychiatrist, as the injuries sustained are psychological and psychiatric in nature). The medical expert/s will then provide a report that outlines their opinion on a number of factors including, but not limited to: 

  • The psychiatric/ psychological injuries sustained; 
  • Whether the claimant’s psychiatric/ psychological injuries are causally linked to the abuse; 
  • The impact the injuries have had on the claimant’s ability to earn an income in the past; 
  • The impact the injuries will have on the claimant’s future ability to earn an income; and 
  • Recommendations on future treatment the claimant requires for their psychiatric/ psychological injuries.  

Once all of the medical evidence has been received, the parties will then work towards attending an informal settlement conference. In the event that a resolution is not able to be achieved at the informal settlement conference, the next step is to commence proceedings in the Court.   

We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today. 

Further Abuse Law information and case law updates written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.  

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