The cost of providing compensation to child abuse survivors could reach at least £200 million in Scotland, MSPs have been told.
Holyrood’s Justice Committee heard the estimate stemmed from projections based on a compensation system for abuse victims in Jersey.
MSPs were told the scale of the sums which could be involved was “highly significant” as they were urged to look at the potential impact it might have on the work of voluntary organisations today.
They also heard ministers’ estimates that a legislation change could result in about 2,200 compensation claims may be “conservative”.
The committee is currently examining the Scottish Government‘s Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill.
The proposed legislation would abolish the current three-year time bar, or limitation, for bringing a civil court claim for damages in some cases of childhood abuse.
Alistair Gaw, representing Social Work Scotland, said access to justice is undoubtedly “overdue” for survivors.
But he asked MSPs to consider what the outcome might be in terms of resources.
He said: “The isle of Jersey went down a route which didn’t involve courts and was actually an efficient and effective route of providing compensation. If you scale up even what happened there to the Scottish scene, you’ve got an average cost of around £40,000. In Scotland that would involve about £200 million if we had the same kind of numbers, which would be around 5,000 in Scotland.”
A Scottish Government memo accompanying the Bill suggests the planned changes could spark 2,200 new legal actions.
But a Police Scotland representative indicated a search of records for the old Strathclyde area alone suggested there were around 4,400 potential cases the force was aware of.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal told MSPs: “We have said that we think that 2,200 might be conservative.”
She said a focus on the Strathclyde patch has uncovered 115,000 family protection and sexual crime files, with the vast majority from the year 2000 onwards.
From that, officers identified 2,300 relevant files relating to 4,400 victims from that area.
She also told how recent ongoing investigations into abuse in football have resulted in 140 referrals to Police Scotland, with 36 investigations raised and “well over 100 victims”.
Earlier, the committee was told the legislation could create an administrative and financial burden for local authorities.
Council umbrella body Cosla said it supports the intent of the legislation, but it highlighted ”a potentially significant impact on local authorities – both financial and practical”.
In its written submission, it said: “While impossible to quantify the potential volume of claims, the overall impact of the legislation on local authorities is likely to be extensive, complex and not limited to successful claims.”
MSPs also heard the current time limit on people who were abused as children seeking damages in court represents a “real barrier” to access to civil justice.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission said in a written submission: “Survivors have expressed the view that the limitation regime also contributes to their sense of self-blame, feeling that they are being further victimised for their failure to take action within the limitation period, which for many survivors was their 19th birthday.”
Scots child abuse victim payouts could total £200m STV news https://stv.tv/news/politics/1381912-compensation-for-scots-abuse-victims-could-total-200m/
Scots child abuse payouts could cost £200m, MSPs told BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-39116477