The Liberal National Party took action to help survivors of child sex abuse. This prompted the Parliament to implement our plan and deliver important reforms.
The Problem

Queensland is stagnating, the community is crying out for leadership and we have a government stuck in neutral.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has highlighted that the existence of limitation periods for claims of personal damages acts as a significant barrier to survivors being able to seek justice for appalling past abuses.

In Queensland, the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 provides that a claim for damages for personal injury cannot be brought more than 3 years from the date on which the cause of action arose. For a child, that means they are prevented from commencing proceedings after turning 21.

Sadly, Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor only acted on this issue, after the LNP policy was released.

Our Record

In government, the LNP established the Child Protection Commission of Inquiry to chart a roadmap for the future of child protection.

We supported victims of crime by enabling a survivor to read their victim impact statement before a sentencing court if the survivor so wishes and it is reasonable in the circumstances and increased funding to support groups.

We also introduced a number of criminal law reforms, including:

  • Mandatory life imprisonment for repeat child sex offenders with a minimum non-parole period of 20 years (‘two strikes policy’)
  • Increased penalties for child exploitation material offences and other child sex offences and inserted a new offence of ‘grooming’ into the Criminal Code
  • A mandatory sentence of one year imprisonment for a sex offender who tampers with or removes their GPS monitoring bracelet
  • Amendments to ensure the maximum penalty for procuring a child or a person with a mental impairment for prostitution was increased from 14 years to 20 years, and
  • Amendments to allow the court to list a predator convicted of child grooming as a Dangerous Offender.

Delivering from Opposition

LNP Leader Tim Nicholls announced our policy to remove the limitation of claims, as recommended by the Royal Commission Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to allow survivors the opportunity to seek justice in their own time. This prompted action which saw the policy being implemented and delivered.

The Commission reported that a number of survivors and many survivor advocacy and support groups have highlighted the importance of ‘fairness’ in the process.

The LNP ensured that recommendations of the Commission to remove the limitation period prospectively and retrospectively, were delivered.

Because of the nature and impact of abuse suffered, many survivors are not emotionally capable of dealing with the trauma involved in seeking justice for their abuse until well after they are 21 years old. It is unfair to deny them justice in these circumstances.

The LNP also ensured that all survivors could have their claims considered, not just those who suffered abuse in an institution. It would have been unfair to effectively create two systems for child sexual abuse survivors and deny people from having their day in court because of where their abuse occurred. Surely, they deserve that at the very least.

Importantly, the Court retains inherent jurisdiction to determine the merits of proceeding (or not) in any individual case.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What were the restrictions that prohibited a child sex abuse survivor from taking action?
The previous laws meant child sex abuse survivors had just three years from their 18th birthday to lodge a claim against their alleged perpetrator.

How will the validity of claims be assessed and what can be done to counter weak evidence because so much time has passed?
Importantly, our independent judicial process through the Courts will retain inherent jurisdiction over individual cases and it will be through the normal evidentiary processes that a plaintiff will be required to establish the merits of an individual case. Each plaintiff will need to justify their claims through normal evidentiary processes.

Could there be a surge in reported cases and are you concerned about investigation backlogs?
Given it can take years, even decades for a survivor of child sex abuse to summon the courage and confront past abuses, there may well be a surge in cases presented to the Courts. Governments need to ensure our justice system is well-resourced to provide equitable and swift access to justice and any increase in matters will need to be considered as part of the usual budgetary processes.

What is the LNP’s record when it comes to supporting victims of crime?
We want Queensland to be the safest place to live, work and raise a family. That’s why we passed a number of strong criminal law reforms in Government, established the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, increased funding by $2 million over four years for survivor advocate organisations, enabled victims to read a victim impact statement before a sentencing court if the victim wished and it was reasonable in the circumstances and commissioned a review of the legislation – which has been stalled under Labor.

What did the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommend?
85. State and territory governments should introduce legislation to remove any limitation period that applies to a claim for damages brought by a person where that claim is founded on the personal injury of the person resulting from sexual abuse of the person in an institutional context when the person is or was a child.

86. State and territory governments should ensure that the limitation period is removed with retrospective effect and regardless of whether or not a claim was subject to a limitation period in the past.

87. State and territory governments should expressly preserve the relevant courts’ existing jurisdictions and powers so that any jurisdiction or power to stay proceedings is not affected by the removal of the limitation period.

88. State and territory governments should implement these recommendations to remove limitation periods as soon as possible, even if that requires that they be implemented before our recommendations in relation to the duty of institutions and identifying a proper defendant are implemented.

Source: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse - 14 September 2015

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