I recognise the clear and terrible effects of domestic abuse and I welcome the fact that the Government has committed unprecedented amounts of funding to supporting victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence during the pandemic and beyond.
Ministers have been very clear that all allegations must be investigated fully and pursued through the courts whenever possible.
Regarding time limits for prosecution, in England and Wales there is no time limit for starting a prosecution for indictable offences, these are offences that can be tried in the Crown Court. However, a prosecution for a summary offence, those which can only be tried in a magistrates’ court, must begin within six months of the day when the offence was committed, unless there is specific statutory provision for a different time limit.
I understand there are two opposing considerations to balance, on the one hand the need for justice to be done; and on the other hand, the right of suspects to finality and certainty.
The Deputy Prime Minister has announced that the Government will table an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This amendment will change how the six-month time limit to commence a prosecution for common assault or battery involving domestic abuse is applied in England and Wales to run from the date of an offence being reported to the police through a formal witness statement or video recording given with a view to its use as evidence, rather than the date of the offence, subject to an overall limit of two years from the offence. I am encouraged that this would give victims more time in which to seek justice given that domestic abuse is often reported late relative to other crimes, but with a two-year backstop to prevent the police from being inundated with historical reports.
I hope this response reassures you that the Government is taking action to ensure justice is done in cases of domestic abuse.