People who experience domestic abuse only have 6 months to legally report it - sign the petition launched to abolish the time limit

By Rhona Shennan
Thursday, 18th March 2021, 1:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 1:31 pm
Victims only have six months to report abuse (Photo: Shutterstock)
Victims only have six months to report abuse (Photo: Shutterstock)

An online petition lobbying to abolish the time limit that victims of domestic violence have to bring forward charges has been launched and is gaining traction across the internet.

In England and Wales, there is no specific offence of domestic violence, or domestic abuse.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) explains that the term however can be applied to a number of offences committed in a domestic environment.

If the reported abuse is categorised, for example, as common assault, CPS states that “any charge(s) or information must be laid within six months of the date of the alleged incident”.

‘Victims denied an investigation’

The petition says: “Since Domestic Violence is not a specific Criminal Offence, suspects will be investigated for related offences.

“If the reported abuse is categorised as ‘Common Assault’, time limits mean victims can be denied an investigation despite building the strength, courage and willpower to come forward.

“There are currently thousands of organisations, charities and support groups for Domestic Violence victims. Yet as it stands, the law can prevent abusers from being investigated and charged.

“As a victim myself, it took over a year from starting counselling to speak up about all my pain and suffering. Only to be told I was too late. Not only is this damaging, it may fail to prevent new victims.

“We are victims too. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. More needs to be done to protect people.”

The petition currently has over 20,000 signatures. The Government responds to all petitions with more than 10,000 signatures, which this petition has bypassed.

At 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

The petition was created by Erica Osakwe, and the deadline for signatures is 27 April 2021, as all petitions run for six months.

Six months to report

The Ask The Police website explains that while most crimes don’t have a time limit when it comes to reporting them, some do.

The site states: “Most crimes do not have a time limit for reporting them. The crimes that do have time limits are ‘summary only’ which means that they can only be tried at a Magistrates Courts and are relatively minor offences; they must be prosecuted within six months e.g common assault, harassment and taken without owner's consent (TWOC).”

It adds: “Do bear in mind that the more time there is between the incident happening and reporting it to the police, the harder it will be for the police to gather the evidence.”

‘Nothing was done because six months had passed’

Journalist, broadcaster and writer Sali Hughes took to Twitter to share the petition and a personal story regarding the topic.

She wrote in an eight part thread: “I’m not generally a thread girl, but this is important. One of my oldest friends was in an abusive relationship for a year. It followed a classic pattern. She was recently divorced, he love bombed her, relentless flattery, talk of soulmates and unprecedented feelings etc…

“Fairly soon, he turned up the heat. Kept stealing her phone and lying about it, temper tantrums, verbal abuse, false accusations made about her friends so she’d dump us and be isolated. Abusive messages he’d send from her phone to ruin her relationships. It was hell…

“Then, of course, he became violent. He broke into her house in the middle of the night and frightened her children. He pushed her down the stairs. She left him several times and to our extreme frustration, he worked his magic by saying he adored her and was unwell. He needed her.

“One day last year, he stole her phone again. Angry at the accusation, he threw her on the floor and kicked her repeatedly. Unbelievably, a woman walked past the open curtains, saw, and dialled 999. He heard the sirens and fled, drunk, in his car. They arrested him.

“Turns out, he had a criminal record for multiple offences against women. They took photos of my friend’s injuries. She got in touch with his ex girlfriends, persuaded them to come forward. They all had the same stories. So then, here’s what happened: nothing.

“The police didn’t send the photos to the CPS for an ABH charge. They now say (in writing) they forgot and are sorry, but that my friend needs to move on. They will act on nothing else because assault has just six months to be charged. Did you know this? I didn't. You can help.

“Women and men who are violently assaulted by their partners have just six months to do something. Then the aggressor is safe. Breaking free can take years. And then it’s too late. Signing this petition will force parliament to reconsider this dangerous rule.

“Thank you. She never went back. We were very lucky that it only lasted a year and she’s still in one piece. He’s already in another violent relationship. Someone’s friend is not going to be as lucky as mine. Your signature is much appreciated.”