Sexual abuse claims

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Sexual abuse claims
  • Procedural issues
  • Limitation
  • Vulnerable claimants
  • Pre-action protocol
  • Judicial College Guidelines
  • Claims against local authorities
  • Breach of statutory duty
  • Common law duty of care—direct duty
  • Common law duty of care—vicarious liability
  • More...

Sexual abuse claims

Procedural issues

Civil claims arising from abuse can involve complex and novel issues in relation to fact, law and procedure.


Claims for abuse are often presented many years after the events giving rise to them.

It is usual practice in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse for limitation to be tried as an issue at the same time as liability and causation in order to avoid the claimant having to give evidence twice.

Ultimately, a claim often comes down to the credibility of the witnesses and, in particular, of the claimant.

For further guidance, see Practice Note: The court’s power to extend the time limit—section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980—Physical/sexual abuse cases.

Vulnerable claimants

CPR PD 1A deals with the participation of vulnerable parties and witnesses in civil proceedings (see also CPR 1.6). CPR PD 1A, para 4 sets out the factors which may cause vulnerability in a party or witness, eg a mental health condition, the subject matter of the case (an example being having witnessed a traumatic event relating to the case) and their relationship with a party or witness (examples being sexual assault, domestic abuse or intimidation (actual or perceived)).

In TVZ v Manchester City Football Club, the claimants were suffering from psychiatric disorders following sexual abuse and were therefore potentially vulnerable within the meaning of

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