September 30, 2023

Have you ever ever questioned whether or not there’s a time restrict for when authorized motion might be taken after a specific incident in Australia? Many international locations on the planet 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 during which authorized proceedings should 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 ceaselessly requested questions.

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What’s a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations refers back to the regulation that governs the utmost time interval inside which events to a difficulty 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 also needs to remember that statutes of limitations differ between completely different state and territory jurisdictions.

What’s a limitation interval?

A limitation interval refers back to the most time period that may move from the time a reason for motion happens till the beginning of court docket proceedings regarding that reason 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 stop people from pursuing claims after a considerable time period has handed since the reason for motion occurred. It’s because if a reason for motion was allowed to proceed after a considerable delay, there could possibly be a detrimental impact on the administration of the court docket proceedings. The first challenge that pertains to authorized proceedings being delayed pertains to the proof that might be introduced. 

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

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

Subsequently, 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 regulation. Whereas statutory limitations in felony proceedings are decided by the discretion of the choose.

You have to be conscious that claims might be initiated after limitation durations have ended. Nevertheless, the courts could have jurisdiction as a way to decide that challenge. Subsequently, 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 during which a plaintiff should start a civil continuing.  The laws governing statutes of  limitation in every jurisdiction is listed beneath:

In Contracts

In New South Wales, in accordance with s14(1)(a) Limitation Act for easy contracts the time interval to start 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 top of the relevant limitation interval doesn’t discharge the contract, it solely terminates the fitting to start litigation. 

It’s essential to notice that you may request for the limitation interval to be prolonged by the court docket. In case 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’ll be able to apply for aid inside two years after the contract was created
  • You’ll be able to 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 
  • Through 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 celebration that’s looking for aid

You need to test the laws in your individual state jurisdiction earlier than making choices based mostly on a possible statue of limitations.

In Private Harm/Dying

Section 50C of the Limitation Act 1969 states that the limitation interval for a reason for motion in negligence is three years from the time the reason for motion is discoverable, or twelve years from the time the damage or demise happens (whichever runs out first). Nevertheless, the limitation interval for damages because of private damage brought on by tort might be prolonged in some cases, reminiscent of the place the individual has subsequently died. This contains acts regarding the next:

  • Negligence
  • Trespass
  • Nuisance 
  • Breach of obligation

For Companies

Section 1325(4) of the Corporations Act 2001 establishes a 6-year limitation interval on an applicant from the time a reason for motion happens because 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 “injury” as expressed in s 82 of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The court docket held that these phrases are to not be given a slim that means. One other precept that got here out of this case was that when conduct causes quite a few losses which happen at completely different occasions, the fitting to recuperate 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 client regulation.

Statute of Limitations-Legal Proceedings

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

Relating to 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 think about the rights and circumstances of victims. For example, there isn’t any limitation interval to start an motion in relation to homicide. Moreover, there are circumstances the place the applicant doesn’t really feel comfy or is prevented from commencing authorized proceedings inside a 12 months 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 start authorized proceedings in opposition to a person in relation to a abstract offence is six months. Nevertheless, 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} completely different limitation interval applies to take authorized motion for the particular 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 quite than felony proceedings. In felony proceedings, the choose determines the statutory limitation apart from much less critical (abstract) offences and indictable sexual offences. 

In case you’re uncertain about whether or not you may make a declare in relation to an occasion that has occurred, you must rent a lawyer for authorized recommendation to find out whether or not you may start authorized proceedings.