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(Queen's Bench Division; Eady J; 10 December 2008)
A 42-year-old woman sought remedies against three local authorities in respect of child abuse suffered when she was aged between 8 and 14 years old. She had been placed in a home with man who many years earlier had been convicted of sexual offences, including bigamous indecent assault. The man was convicted of indecent assault on her shortly before her 10th birthday, but was put on probation and allowed to return to the family home. When he left that home and began living with another woman, the claimant spent time with him on access visits, and eventually went to live with him. Almost immediately he began abusing her again; after over 2? years the claimant reported the abuse, and he was eventually convicted of rape and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. The authorities argued that the claims should be struck out as time-barred.
All three claims would be struck out. The claimant had been fixed with knowledge, at least from the time of attaining her majority, of the relevant facts. It could safely be said that she knew enough to make it reasonable for her to begin to investigate whether or not she had a claim against any of the authorities. The court had considered exercising its discretion to allow the claims to continue. Unfortunately in two of the cases the delay in issuing proceedings meant that it was no longer possible for there to be a fair trial of the issues; in the third case, there would be no point in disapplying the limitation period because no case of negligence could be established on the available evidence.
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