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Historic Abuse Claims: When Is Late Too Late? - Paul Donnelly & Samantha Chambers, DWF LLP

02/06/17. Six reported cases in three months give clear judicial guidance on when the court should/should not disapply the limitation period.

Paul Donnelly and Samantha Chambers acted on behalf of the Defendant and its insurers in Wilde v Coventry City Council (2017) – a historic abuse claim where HHJ Moloney QC refused to exercise discretion (under section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980) to disapply the limitation period following a 2 day preliminary issue hearing. In this article, they discuss the Wilde case and other recent court decisions on limitation defences in historic sexual abuse cases, to provide guidance on when judicial discretion to disapply the limitation period should/should not be exercised.

Since A v Hoare [2008] a deliberate criminal act of abuse is considered a negligent act for limitation purposes. Therefore, under section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980, the claim must be brought within 3 years from the date the cause of action accrued, or from when the claimant acquired the requisite 'knowledge' (under section 14). Unlike the pre 2008 position, the court now also has discretion to disapply that primary limitation period under section 33 of the Act "if it appears to the court that it would be equitable to allow an action to proceed".

Of particular relevance to the claimant's claim in Wilde is that, unknown to many, section 33(1) provides the ability for the court to...

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