Football Child Sex Abuse – Time Limits
Football child sex abuse claims
In any claim for injury there are time limits. In abuse claims where the injury to the victim (physical and/or psychological) a victim should bring court action within 3 years from when the harm was done. The general rule is if the victim does not issue court proceedings they will be out of time and too late to claim.
The date from when time runs is usually simple if a person suffers an accident, such as a road traffic collision where a person suffers a whiplash injury. The date that time will run will be the date of the accident.
Child Sexual Abuse Claims in Football
However there are various exceptions to bring a claim in time to court. The major exception is where an injury occurs to a person who is under the age of 18 years. In law a child does not possess the relevant knowledge until they have reached the age of 18 years and thus the 3 year timer does not run until they reach that age and thus have until the their 21st birthday to make a claim for compensation.
A further major exception when specialist child sexual abuse solicitors will consider is that in such cases, it is recognised that many victims will at a later time in life many years after the abuse has stopped will come forward. Usually a trigger event like hearing others were also abused again the same person or organisation.
Historic child abuse Claims – Not Too Late To Claim Compensation
Thankfully in recent years the Courts and legal system have become much better in understanding the nature of child sexual abuse in sport including football and other areas such as abuse in care homes.
The following is a brief analysis of recent case law in non football child abuse compensation claims where the courts have considered whether historic child abuse claims are within time to take to court.
A V Hoare (2008) – The Lottery Case £7 Million
This is a case where there was an allegation of sexual abuse, in this case rape to a female and subsequently the abuser was convicted in a criminal court. The victim of sexual abuse made a claim for compensation with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICA) which is a Government body set up to pay compensation to victims of crime. The reason why a claim was made to the CICA is that the abuser had not money to compensate the victim so that was her only legal right.
The victim obtained a nominal award of compensation for the sexual abuse. It is usually a lot less than going to court. However years after the abuser was convicted, when he was on day release he won the lottery £7 Million in August 2004.
The victim became aware of the lottery win and therefore her solicitors made a claim against her abuser direct due to the fact that he had assets to make a compensation payment.
The abuser, however raised the limitation issue, that is that the victim did not bring her claim with the 3 year period when she was aware of the abuse which had a significant impact upon her. The criminal trial was in 1988 but court proceeding did not comment until December 2004 some 16 years after the sexual abuse took place.
In such cases the time period to bring a claim for sexual abuse is 3 years from either the date when the abuse occurred or the “date of knowledge” as defined in section Limitation Act 1980, s 11(4)(b). In addition, section 33 of the Act gives the court a discretion to extend the period when it appears that it would be equitable to do so.
The courts allowed the claim, it was not too late. Under s 33 of Limitation Act 1980 the court has a discretion to bring a claim for historic sexual abuse even though it occurred many years ago. The court as in this case will balance the rights of the victim and the abuser from defending a stale case. In particular the factors taking into account if sexual abuse claims are:
- The nature and seriousness of abuse – to an adult victim or child victim;
- The consequences of abuse; in this case the abuser had no money or assets and was not worth taking action for compensation for sexual abuse;
- The reason for delay in bringing a sexual abuse compensation claim: here as the abuser was not worth suing, there was no incentive for the victim to bring a claim – which was the principle factor as to why she did not take legal action;
- The victim had acted promptly when she realised the abuser had won the lottery – 4 months following the lottery win;
- The court will take into account the nature of the victims psychological injury. In this case her second episode of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder became ‘clinically significant’ in 2004 and capable of being fully addressed by both parties at any trial;
In the episode of new football child abuse claims the same principles as in the above case will also be applied.
This is the first ever reported civil action for rape brought by a very corageous victim. A case that is considered no longer good law. A case where the victim was sexually abused between 1959 to 1971 by her adopted father and step brother. She would have been between 2 year old to 14 years old during the historic abuse. Year following the abuse she suffered from various psychological In 1984, medical treatment from a psychiatrist, realised for the first time that there might be a connection between the childhood sexual abuse and her suffering. The sexual child abuse took place many years prior to the issue of court proceedings for compensation and the question was whether it was too late.
As this was a quite unique case, the legal issues surrounded what was alleged to be an intentional act of trespass to the person and this case is considered no longer to be followed by the courts. The case of Hoare above doubted its relevance.
Ablett v Devon County Council (2001)
In the case of the judge explained that in child sex abuse cases there is inevitably a problem with limitation as those who have been victims of the abuse a fearful and confused and due to this they are silent. This means that allegations generally come out several years after the abuse has taken place.
Taking the above cases into consideration, The Law Commission and the courts recognise that sexual abuse claims will frequently require to be brought many years after the event.
It is not too late to make a sexual abuse claim
Even if the sexual abuse had taken place in the 1970’s or 1980’s it is not a bar to making a claim for football child abuse compensation or any kine of sexual abuse. As the the brief examples above (there are many more) the Courts have become more aware of the full extent of the nature of abuse and the significant impact it has on victims especially from a psychological view point.
Many sex abuse claim are allowed to proceed despite the fact the abuse is historic. Don’t let this be a bar to making a claim and in addition your identity can be protected.
Victims of child sex abuse feel they want to start a legal investigation about what happened to them later on in life once they feel courageous enough to come out.
If you are one of these victims then contact R.James Hutcheon solicitors to discuss your case with one of our legal experts. All information is kept confidential and we offer a sympathetic and understanding approach.