I was sexually abused a long time ago and the police did nothing. How can I get justice?

When the police fail to investigate serious crimes such as rape and sexual abuse, victims may be able to bring a claim under the Human Rights Act 1998 to account for losses for that failure. Various other claims can be brought, such as claims in personal injury.

However, there are strict time limits within which to bring these claims. This regime is known as ‘limitation’ and can range from 1 to 6 years depending on the type of claim. Many Defendants to such a claim, including the police, will seek to rely on the fact a claim has not been brought in time, as a ‘defence’ against such a claim. The courts usually agree meaning the claim cannot proceed. That is not always the case, however.

If you were abused many years ago and the police did not investigate or there was never a prosecution due to failings in their investigation or something the CPS did wrong, the court has a discretion to allow you to make a claim despite it being out of time.

A similar situation arises where you were abused but did not tell the police. You may be able to bring a civil claim against your abuser for the damage you have suffered, even though the abuse happened a long time ago and you would otherwise be too late to bring a claim.

Judges recognise that many victims of sexual abuse find it impossible or extremely difficult to come forward and seek legal recourse soon after the abuse happens, for good reason. For many victims, being able to even speak about their experiences takes many years to achieve.

In cases where a person was sexually abused as a child, limitation is again more flexible. For assault claims, the limitation period begins to run from the date the victim turns 18. The same delayed start to the limitation period does not apply to Human Rights Act claims, but the courts can be more flexible in deciding whether to allow the claim to proceed out of time.

In summary, it is common in cases involving abuse, for victims / survivors to feel unable to seek justice until much later in life, after the limitation period has expired. However, the courts can still be flexible and allow claims to be pursued many years after the abuse took place.

The Human Rights department at Saunders Law offers expert legal assistance and representation in civil claims arising from historic sexual abuse. For a free, no-obligation, initial discussion to see if we might be able to help, please contact us on 02076324300 or make an enquiry online.


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