Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . .
As I indicated, the opposition will be supporting this bill.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Corrections, Minister for Education, Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs and Minister for Road Safety) (10.38): I am pleased to support this bill today. The major change in the bill is that it removes limitation periods from the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 and the Limitation Act 1985 that apply to claims for damages brought by survivors of child sexual abuse in an institutional context.
It is a sad reality that the ACT community is not immune from the grievous injustices of the past that have been raised through the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Sexual abuse in this context often takes many years to come to light, sometimes because the nature of the abuse and the fact that it is perpetrated against children means it is not reported by the victims. Sometimes the abuse could be covered up or negligently ignored.
As the commission continues, we can expect to hear more tragic stories of this nature. It is vital that the victims of these tragic historical acts are able to come forward, in some cases many years or decades later, and have access to legal remedies. We have already changed the laws to allow criminal matters to be tried even when outside the usual statute of limitations. However, civil matters have remained an issue.
Criminal charges are not always possible. The perpetrator may have passed away, for example. There is often, however, a case to be made against an institution that may be culpable of the offence. It may have covered it up or failed to report it or been negligent in some other way. Many victims need to, and have a right to, seek redress and justice through civil proceedings. But, as the royal commission concludes, limitation periods are a significant, sometimes insurmountable, barrier to survivors of child sexual abuse pursuing civil litigation for damages for their injury and loss.
Therefore there is a clear interim recommendation from the royal commission to lift the statute of limitations for not just criminal but also civil matters. We will continue to watch as the final recommendations are made and other jurisdictions take action, but I am pleased to cooperate with a government that is working quickly to respond to these issues.
I wrote to the attorney recently urging him to take action on this matter. I appreciate that he has responded positively, and thank him for introducing the amendments we are debating today.
This bill also amends the Victims of Crime Act 1994 to increase the victim services levy from $40 to $50 on commencement and from $50 to $60 from 1 July next year. This levy applies to court-ordered fines payable by adults convicted of an offence. The purpose is to improve victim support services, an initiative that I support. I also note the safeguards in place for the levy so that it does not impact on people who are particularly vulnerable or suffering from undue hardship in having to pay a fine. Most notably, the court has a specific power to exempt people from liability to pay the levy in these circumstances.
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