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Making an Historic Abuse Claim

We understand that raising a claim in relation to abuse is incredibly difficult for survivors. At Thorntons, our dedicated team, including Accredited Specialists in Personal Injury Law are here to help you every step of the way, with confidential advice and personal tailored support.  

Click here to read a full transcript of this historic abuse claims video. Or alternatively you can select captions in the video panel.

If you have been the victim of abuse and you were under the age of 18 at the time, there is no time limit on when you can make a historic child abuse claim against the abuser or the organisation responsible for them. Abuse can include sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and abuse which takes the form of neglect.

Claim options and process

Thorntons specialist solicitors can advise abuse survivors of their right to claim, help them select the best option and take them through the whole process.

There is no time limit on bringing a claim in respect of abuse where the abuse occurred to a person who was under 18 at the time. Abuse can include child sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect.

If the abuse occurred to a person over the age of 18, the normal three-year time limit on claims applies.

Claims can be brought against any individual who perpetrated the abuse, but in practice claims are only brought against persons who have sufficient assets to cover the cost of compensation sought. It is also possible to bring a claim against an abuser who has died by suing their estate.

In some circumstances it is possible to bring a claim against an organisation. This occurs where the organisation, such as a school, club or religious group, is ‘vicariously liable’ for the actions of their employee, volunteer or affiliate. Such organisations tend to have insurance in place and are better placed than individuals to meet the costs of compensation sought.  

Any survivor of abuse, or any victim of a violent crime, can seek compensation through a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). Claims to the CICA operate differently to traditional claims and have special requirements. A significant difference is that they must be brought within two years of the incident. Where the incident occurred to a person under the age of 18, the child abuse compensation claim must be brought:

  • Within two years of the person’s 18th birthday if the abuse is already reported to the police, or
  • Within two years of the report to the police if the abuse is not reported until after the person’s 18th birthday

The amount of compensation recoverable is also restricted to predetermined limits.   

The law surrounding abuse actions in Scotland has undergone serious development in recent years, bringing much needed change for survivors. Before October 2017, survivors of abuse would only have three years to either have a claim investigated and settled, or raised in court. If the claim was not dealt with in this timeframe generally it would be considered ‘barred’ by the passage of time. Unfortunately, the result of that was that many claims did not progress to settlement for survivors.

Research suggested that many survivors of historical child abuse did not discuss the abuse until potentially decades later, which under the law of the time meant that they were unable to bring about a civil claim. The introduction of the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 removed the time limit for making a civil claim for abuse, meaning survivors were no longer prejudiced for claiming many years later.

While no ‘time bar’ applies in historic child abuse cases any more, there is still provision in the 2017 Act for a defender in an abuse claim to argue their right to a fair trial is prejudiced. So it is essential that survivors seek legal advice as soon as they are comfortable to discuss a potential claim.

Survivors of abuse in care might soon be able to benefit from the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill, which is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament. An advance payment scheme is currently in place for abuse survivors that took place before 2004, and are aged over 68 or have a terminal illness.

The first stage, and often the hardest, is getting in touch. Our team are available 8am to 8pm by phone, email, live chat or face to face. We can discuss what happened and advise you of all of your options, with no obligations.

Once you have decided what is best for you, we can accept instructions to commence your claim. We can advise you of your funding options and most of our cases are run on a no-win-no-fee basis.

Next, it is over to us. The next stages will depend on the circumstances and what is best for your own case. Often at this point we formally submit your claim to the abuser or responsible organisation. We handle all contact with the other parties and negotiate on your behalf. Some cases might require some further investigation, which our specialist team can advise on.

If matters can be agreed, we can advise you on the value of your claim. This is unique to every case. No amount of money can make up for what happened but our team can ensure you get the most out of your claim and seek all you are entitled to. Relying on expert medical advice, we claim for the injuries you sustained, in particular psychological injuries. The cost of necessary psychological treatment often forms part of a claim. Additionally, the long-term impact of abuse cannot be underestimated and our team rely on experts to understand any effect on your education and career, to consider a claim for financial loss.

If settlement cannot be reached then our experienced solicitors and in-house Solicitor Advocates can advise you on taking a case to court. We know that this can be daunting process but our team can help you at every step of the way. It is only in very rare cases that a case progresses to a court hearing and a survivor is asked to appear in court.

Once all is agreed and settled, if you need it, our colleagues can help you protect your compensation through PI trusts or arrange a referral for investment advice.

How can Thorntons help?

Getting the right legal support and advice will make a big difference to the success of a historic abuse claim. Our specialist Personal Injury team are on hand to help when you feel ready to discuss making a claim and we deal with all enquiries on a strictly private and confidential basis.

We have offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Tayside, Fife and Perth and are available to speak with you via telephone, video conferencing, email or in person. We pride ourselves on providing a personal, tailored and supportive approach, advising and guiding clients through the claims process and beyond sensitively, effectively and efficiently.

A Thorntons ‘we do what’s right’ and we are committed to doing that for you.