September 29, 2023


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Does Australia have a Statute of Limitations?

6 min read

Have you ever ever questioned whether or not there’s a time restrict for when authorized motion will be taken after a specific incident in Australia? Many nations on the earth have what is named a statute of limitation, together with New Zealand, the USA and the UK. A statute of limitation refers to laws that units out a time interval by which authorized proceedings have to be commenced in.

On this article, we’ll clarify whether or not Australia has a statute of limitations, what’s the aim of a statute of limitations, the laws governing statutes of limitations and solutions to different often requested questions.

Learn alongside!

What’s a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations refers back to the legislation that governs the utmost time interval inside which events to a problem can carry authorized proceedings following the incidence of an offence. Statutes of limitations can apply to each felony and civil proceedings.

Does Australia have a Statute of Limitations?

Australia does have a statute of limitations. In Australia, statutes of limitations are ruled by commonwealth, state and territory laws. Statutes of limitations in Australia can apply to offences together with the next:

  • Legal offences
  • Civil offences
  • Site visitors offences 

You must also remember that statutes of limitations differ between totally different state and territory jurisdictions.

What’s a limitation interval?

A limitation interval refers back to the most time period that may cross from the time a explanation for motion happens till the beginning of courtroom proceedings referring to that explanation for motion. The components that decide limitation durations embody the character of the offence and the governing laws.

Why is there a Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations operates as a statutory barrier to forestall people from pursuing claims after a considerable time period has handed since the reason for motion occurred. It’s because if a explanation for motion was allowed to proceed after a considerable delay, there may very well be a detrimental impact on the administration of the courtroom proceedings. The first challenge that pertains to authorized proceedings being delayed pertains to the proof that shall be introduced. 

The evidentiary components that shall be negatively impacted embody the next:

  • The supply of witnesses
  • The supply of paperwork
  • The accuracy of element which is the topic of the proof. 

Due to this fact, the aim of limitation durations is to stability the pursuits of all events and the efficient administration of justice.

Statute of Limitations in Australia

In Australia, statutes of limitations apply. Statutory limitations in civil proceedings are ruled by state legislation. Whereas statutory limitations in felony proceedings are decided by the discretion of the decide.

You have to be conscious that claims will be initiated after limitation durations have ended. Nonetheless, the courts may have jurisdiction with a purpose to decide that challenge. Due to this fact, the onus is on the defendant to plead it as a part of their defence, or else the declare is not going to be prevented by the statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations: Civil Proceedings

In civil proceedings, every Australian jurisdiction units out guidelines governing the time period by which a plaintiff should begin a civil continuing.  The laws governing statutes of  limitation in every jurisdiction is listed under:

In Contracts

In New South Wales, in accordance with s14(1)(a) Limitation Act for easy contracts the time interval to begin proceedings is six years from the date on which the reason for motion accrues. Whereas with deeds, an extended interval of 12-20 years typically applies relying on the jurisdiction. You have to be conscious that the tip of the relevant limitation interval doesn’t discharge the contract, it solely terminates the suitable to begin litigation. 

It’s essential to notice that you may request for the limitation interval to be prolonged by the courtroom. Should you’re making use of for aid underneath the Contracts Review Act 1980, the limitation interval is shorter than the interval outlined by the Limitation Act. Section 16 of the Contracts Review Act 1980 outlines the durations to acquire aid underneath this Act, which is as follows:

  • You possibly can apply for aid inside two years after the contract was created
  • You possibly can apply inside three months earlier than or two years after the time for efficiency of the contract or if any energy or obligation or any exercise in relation to the contract has been carried out 
  • In the course of the pendency of a maintainable continuing arising out of or in relation to the contract the interval of the pendency of maintainable proceedings arising out of or in relation to the contract, together with proceedings in opposition to the social gathering that’s in search of aid

You must examine the laws in your personal state jurisdiction earlier than making choices based mostly on a possible statue of limitations.

In Private Harm/Demise

Section 50C of the Limitation Act 1969 states that the limitation interval for a explanation for motion in negligence is three years from the time the reason for motion is discoverable, or twelve years from the time the harm or demise happens (whichever runs out first). Nonetheless, the limitation interval for damages as a consequence of private harm attributable to tort will be prolonged in some cases, corresponding to the place the individual has subsequently died. This consists of acts referring to the next:

  • Negligence
  • Trespass
  • Nuisance 
  • Breach of responsibility

For Companies

Section 1325(4) of the Corporations Act 2001 establishes a 6-year limitation interval on an applicant from the time a explanation for motion happens as a consequence of particular company misconduct.

The Excessive Court docket, within the 2004 case of Murphy v Overton Investments Pty Ltd, clarified the that means of “loss” or “harm” as expressed in s 82 of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The courtroom held that these phrases are to not be given a slender that means. One other precept that got here out of this case was that when conduct causes quite a few losses which happen at totally different occasions, the suitable to get better the quantity of every loss accrues solely when the actual loss accrues.

The Australian Consumer Law additionally establishes separate statutes of limitations for breaches of shopper legislation.

Statute of Limitations-Legal Proceedings

The statutory interval varies relying on the offence and jurisdiction. Usually, a limitation interval applies to minor or abstract offences. Moreover, limitation durations also can apply within the prosecution of indictable sexual offences. 

Concerning felony proceedings section 15B of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) outlines the statute of limitations. This part states that the prosecution of a person in relation to a abstract offence should start inside 12 months after the offence happens. Moreover, the prosecution of an organization in relation to a abstract offence should start inside 12 months after the offence happens. 

State-specific crimes acts likewise have statues of limitation for separate offences, which consider the rights and circumstances of victims. For instance, there isn’t a limitation interval to begin an motion in relation to homicide. Moreover, there are instances the place the applicant doesn’t really feel comfy or is prevented from commencing authorized proceedings inside a yr from when the incident occurred. For instance, victims of sexual abuse or sexual assault typically don’t take authorized motion for an prolonged time period following the incident.

Statute of Limitations-Abstract Offences

In NSW, Section 179(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 states that the limitation interval to begin authorized proceedings in opposition to a person in relation to a abstract offence is six months. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions to this subsection outlined by s 179(2) of this Act. These embody the next:

  • The place an Act or Regulation states {that a} totally different limitation interval applies to take authorized motion for the precise offence
  • If the offence is an indictable offence that’s being dealt with summarily
  • If the offence pertains to a person’s demise or if the offence is the topic of a coronial inquest


Statutes of limitations do apply in Australia, though they’re largely related to civil proceedings within the Australian authorized system reasonably than felony proceedings. In felony proceedings, the decide determines the statutory limitation apart from much less critical (abstract) offences and indictable sexual offences. 

Should you’re not sure about whether or not you can also make a declare in relation to an occasion that has occurred, it is best to rent a lawyer for authorized recommendation to find out whether or not you may start authorized proceedings.

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