Victims of domestic abuse will be allowed more time to report incidents of common assault or battery against them under amendments added to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Currently, prosecutions must commence within six months of the offence but under the changes, this requirement will be moved to six months from the date the incident is formally reported to the police – with an overall time limit of two years from the offence to bring a prosecution.
Domestic abuse is often reported late in comparison to other crimes so the changes will ensure victims have enough time to seek justice and that perpetrators are held to account.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to protect women, make them feel safer, and give them greater confidence in the justice system.
“We’re giving the victims of domestic abuse longer to report the offence to the police – so abusers don’t evade justice,” he added.
The announcement builds on measures already in the Bill to better protect women such as ending the halfway release of offenders sentenced to four to seven years in prison for serious sexual offences, to ensure that they will spend two-thirds of their time in prison.
In December, the legislation was amended to make clear that a new legal duty requiring public bodies to work together to tackle serious violence can also include domestic abuse and sexual offences. It means that these crimes should be taken as seriously as knife crime and homicide, with police, government, and health bodies required to collaborate locally, so that they can develop more holistic strategies to protect people from harm, including through early intervention.
Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said: “I strongly welcome the additions made to the PCSC Bill today, which allow victims of domestic abuse more time to report to the police.
“It is important that all domestic abuse victims have the time and opportunity to report to the police. This is especially important following Covid restrictions, when many victims faced additional challenges to seeking help and reporting domestic abuse.
“I want to see increased prosecutions for domestic abuse, and hope to see that as these measures remove another barrier to bringing perpetrators to justice,” she added.