CHILD ABUSE LIMITATION DECISION
The House of Lords held on 21 May 2008 that actions of damages in respect of child abuse at a children's home called Nazareth House, Cardonald in Glasgow, carried out in the 1960s and 1970s, were excluded by the limitation provisions of the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 (Bowden v Poor Sisters of Nazareth; Whitton v Poor Sisters of Nazareth  UKHL 32).
The limitation period in personal injuries actions is three years under the 1973 Act, but the court has a discretion to extend the period “if it seems to it equitable to do so”. The Lord Ordinary had decided that the discretion should not be exercised in these cases and this had been upheld in the Inner House; the House of Lords unanimously affirmed that it was not this court’s function to review the exercise of discretion any further. No attempt to invoke the Human Rights Act in this case, following earlier failures of arguments about interpreting the 1973 Act to give effect to Convention rights (see K v Gilmartin’s Exx 2004 SC 784; B v Murray 2007 SLT 605; also previously No 718).
Note also paragraph 4 of Lord Hope's speech:
"The appellants have drawn attention to the fact that on 1 December 2004 the then First Minister, Jack McConnell, made a public apology for what had happened in these institutions to the Scottish Parliament. It must be stressed, however, that this was a purely political initiative. It has no legal significance whatsoever. The homes were not institutions for the running of which either he or anyone else in the Scottish Executive was responsible. Indeed the First Minister was careful to say that it was not his purpose to cut across the work of the courts. He acknowledged that it was for the courts to establish, in accordance with the law, where responsibility lay and what was to happen as a result. Moreover he did not mention the fundamental problem which was already facing the claimants in all these cases. This is the defenders’ contention that due to the delay in raising proceedings they are all time barred."