Decision of House of Lords in historic child abuse cases. Bowden & Another-v-Poor Sisters of Nazareth
21 May 2008
Following widespread media coverage in 1997, several hundred actions of damages alleging historic child abuse were raised in 2000 against various religious orders, charitable bodies and public authorities. In each case the allegations were decades old and in each case the defenders took pleas of time bar. In May of this year, two such cases proceeded to a hearing before the House of Lords. It was accepted that the cases were prima facie time barred, the allegations dating from the 1960s and 1970s. What was at issue was whether the court ought to exercise its discretion to allow the actions to proceed. The House of Lords upheld Lord Drummond Young's decision to dismiss the actions. In discussing the rationale underlying the limitation provisions, Lord Hope opined that where there is the possibility of significant prejudice to a defender it will not usually be appropriate to allow a prima facie time barred action to proceed.
The respondents were represented by Gerry Moynihan QC and Alastair Duncan, Advocate, both of Axiom Advocates.
A copy of the judgment is available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldjudgmt/jd080521/bowden-1.htm
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