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19 September 2023 | Comment | Article by Alan Collins

Navigating the Civil Claim Side of Historic Sexual Abuse: Lessons from the coverage surrounding Russell Brand

In recent years, the global #MeToo movement has ignited important conversations around sexual abuse and harassment in various spheres of society. High-profile cases involving celebrities and public figures have drawn significant attention to the issue. One such case that has captured the public’s interest is the sexual abuse allegations against comedian and actor Russell Brand.

As someone who has been at the forefront of representing survivors, Alan Collins‘ experience as Head of the Abuse Team at Hugh James has provided him with valuable insights into the civil legal processes that victims of sexual abuse and harassment may encounter.

In this blog, we will explore the civil claim side of sexual abuse, using the media coverage surrounding Russell Brand as a backdrop. We will delve into the legal processes that survivors of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace might face, drawing from my experience in representing survivors of similar cases.

Victims and survivors bring civil claims for compensation in addition to criminal proceedings, or they may do so because they do not want to or are unable to. A civil case is one brought by the victim/survivor against the perpetrator (or alleged) or an organisation responsible for them for example an employer. This is unlike a criminal case where the victim/survivor is a witness for the Crown (the prosecution). It is their case.

Survivors and victims bring civil claims to obtain compensation for the harm suffered and its consequences but may also do so to obtain accountability or recognition for the grievous wrongs suffered.

Understanding “Historic” Sexual Abuse Claims

The term “Historic” in the context of sexual abuse claims is something of a misnomer because for a victim or survivor there is nothing “historic” about their experiences. It is used in reference to allegations of sexual abuse or harassment that occurred in the past. These claims often involve incidents that took place years or even decades ago. It is important to note that survivors of historic sexual abuse may still seek justice through civil litigation, even if the accused has not been convicted or prosecuted in a criminal court.

The first step in pursuing a historic, as in any sexual abuse claim, is for the survivor to consult with an experienced solicitor who specialises in abuse cases. This initial consultation is crucial as it allows the survivor to assess the merits of their case and explore their legal options. Additionally, it is essential to keep in mind that not all cases will proceed to court; some may be resolved through alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or settlement negotiations.

Statute of Limitations and Historic Claims

One of the most significant challenges in historic sexual abuse cases is the Limitation Act 1980 which provides for claims for compensation to be brought before a court within 3 years of the injury complained of. This 3 year period in the case of a child commences on their eighteenth birthday. This period can be extended by a court if it is fair to do so. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that survivors of sexual abuse may require additional time to come to terms with their experiences and decide to take legal action. Some legal jurisdictions have extended or abolished statutes of limitations for sexual abuse cases, offering survivors a better chance at seeking justice.

As we look at the recent coverage about Russell Brand, like many historic sexual abuse cases, alleged victims may face the challenge of statutes of limitations. However, these cases often revolve around a variety of legal arguments, and a skilled legal team can find ways to navigate these complexities and pursue justice on behalf of the survivor.

Establishing Liability and Gathering Evidence

To successfully pursue a historic sexual abuse claim, it is crucial to establish liability. This typically involves gathering evidence, including witness statements, medical records, and any available documentation that can corroborate the survivor’s account. In some cases, survivors may have kept diaries or records that can serve as valuable evidence.

In the Russell Brand scandal, as in any historic abuse case, the legal team would work diligently to build a strong case by collecting relevant evidence and conducting a thorough investigation. It is essential to remember that the burden of proof lies with the survivor, and a robust legal strategy is crucial to achieving a successful outcome.

Supporting Survivors Throughout the Legal Process

The legal process can be emotionally challenging for survivors of sexual abuse and harassment. As Head of the Abuse Team at Hugh James, my team and I prioritise providing a supportive and empathetic environment for our clients. We understand the unique sensitivities involved in these cases and strive to ensure that survivors feel heard and respected throughout the legal process.


The Russell Brand media coverage and reports serves as a reminder that historic sexual abuse claims can be legally complex and emotionally challenging for survivors. It is essential to emphasize that accusations alone do not equate to guilt, and the legal process is designed to establish the truth.

As someone who has represented survivors in high-profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile scandal, I remain committed to advocating for survivors of sexual abuse and harassment. It is my hope that by shedding light on the civil legal processes involved in historic abuse claims, we can empower survivors to come forward, seek justice, and create a safer and more accountable society.

Organisations like The Survivors Trust, Rape Crisis, and Women’s Aid provide essential services and resources for survivors of sexual abuse. You can contact them to access the help and guidance you may need on your journey toward healing and recovery.

If you are in need of information and support,  you can email Women’s Aid at [email protected] or contact a local domestic abuse service by using their Domestic Abuse Directory.

If you have a general enquiry for Rape Crisis England and Wales, you can email them at [email protected] or contact their 24/7 helpline or visit the Get help part of their website to find self-help tools and details of your local Rape Crisis centre.

For survivors, their supporters and professionals looking for  information, advice and emotional support from The Survivors Trust please email them at [email protected] or call their free confidential helpline on 08088 010 818.

These organisations play a crucial role in assisting survivors, and their expertise is invaluable in providing support during these challenging times.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at [email protected].

Author bio

Alan Collins


Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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