22 October 2021

Domestic abuse victims to be given more time to go to police

22 October 2021

The law could be changed to allow victims of domestic abuse more time to report incidents to the police.

The time limit on common assault cases is currently six months, meaning a prosecution has to be brought to court within that time frame from the date of the alleged offence.

But, following calls for legal reforms from campaigners, the Home Secretary Priti Patel is understood to have agreed to extend the time limit to up to two years.

The changes are expected to be put to Parliament in an amendment to the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Home Secretary Priti Patel (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

It comes after the BBC last week reported 13,000 cases in England and Wales had been dropped in five years because the time limit had been breached.

Common assault cases are typically dealt with in magistrates’ courts and can involve violence or threatening behaviour which lead to someone fearing they will be attacked.

They can often include things like being spat at, pushed or slapped.

Campaigners have argued police should be given more time to be able to bring charges as cases involving domestic abuse can be complex and victims can be reluctant to come forward.

Yvette Cooper, Labour chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, put forward an amendment on the changes earlier this year after working with a woman in her Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency who reported to police “repeated domestic abuse but was told she had run out of time and nothing would be done.”

She said: “If the Government is now adopting our proposal to lift the time limit on prosecuting domestic abuse cases, that would be excellent news.

“Thousands of domestic abuse victims are timed out by a law they never knew existed and that means thousands of perpetrators getting away with it so they can abuse again.

“Making this simple and practical change would give domestic abuse victims more time to report assault and means stronger action to tackle violence against women and girls, something that is badly needed right now.

“If the Government has listened, then this is a real chance of getting more justice and protection for people in future from domestic abuse.

“I hope the Government will make a formal announcement or publish their own amendment soon.”

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