Refuge, Women’s Aid and the Centre for Women’s Justice launch joint campaign on Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

 
Refuge, Women’s Aid and the Centre for Women’s Justice launch joint campaign on Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Organisations across the women’s sector have joined forces to campaign for a change to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would extend the length of time survivors have to report incidents of common assault to the police from the current six months to a maximum of 18 months. This would remove a critical barrier survivors face when seeking justice against their perpetrator and protection for themselves and their children.

The three organisations have launched a mobilisation campaign, which they hope will show parliament and the government the strength of support for reform. The online campaign calls for MPs to support an amendment to the Bill, and the three organisations supporters will be sending emails to their MPs right up until the amendment is heard.

The Bill, which will begin its report stage in the coming weeks, offers an opportunity to make vital improvements which would enable more women experiencing domestic abuse to report incidents of common assault. Currently, charges for common assault must be brought within six months of the incident occurring.

If survivors don’t report within this time limit, then the cases ‘time-out’ and cases are unable to proceed. However, there are multiple barriers to reporting – such as fear of their partner, still being in the relationship, and the traumatic and logistical challenges of fleeing.

As a result of the current six-month time limit, many common assault charges time-out and women are not able to access justice and the protection that this can offer. By the time many women are safe and ready to speak to the police, they are often told that the charging time limit has passed.

If agreed, the amendment to the Bill, being tabled by Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, and which has cross-party support, will give survivors of domestic abuse more time to report incidents of common assault perpetrated against them.  The amendment would extend the overall time limit for bringing charges for domestic common assault to two years and give magistrates the power to waive the time limit if it is in the interests of justice.

Lisa King OBE, Refuge director of communication and external relations said:  ‘We are all incredibly grateful to Yvette Cooper for championing this important matter and are  hopeful that this amendment will provide real protection to the women currently being timed out of access to justice. The criminal justice system, which so often works against women, must be fit for purpose, and this simple change to the law would ensure better protection for so many women, and bring the law more in line with the needs of women experiencing domestic abuse. ‘

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid Federation of England, said: ‘Survivors face huge personal and societal barriers in reporting domestic abuse. The six-month limit fails to recognise that women simply may not be able to report until after they’ve escaped the abuser and found safety, and cases can often be complex and lengthy to investigate. The six month ‘time out’ on common assault in cases of domestic abuse must be extended to ensure survivors can access justice.’

Nogah Ofer, Solicitor, Centre for Women’s Justice said: ‘The law needs to recognise that disclosing and reporting domestic violence is much harder than reporting other types of assaults and ensure that the criminal justice system does not continue to let women down on a time limit technicality’.

Campaign page: https://e-activist.com/policebill

ENDS

For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk.

About Refuge:

Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.