People alleging domestic abuse will be given longer to report a common assault or battery to the police, the Ministry of Justice has said in its first announcement of the new year.
Currently, prosecutions must commence within six months of an alleged offence. Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the six months will run from the date the incident is formally reported to the police. To prevent the police 'being inundated with historical reports', there will be an overall time limit of two years from the offence to bring a prosecution.
Justice secretary 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.'
The Ministry of Justice recorded a record number of domestic violence remedy order applications shortly after the country first went into lockdown. Between April and June 2020, 8,884 applications were made - up 24% on the same quarter in 2019. Between April and June 2021, there were 8,300 applications - a 6% drop compared to April and June 2020, but still higher than the 8,022 recorded between January to March 2020, which was the previous quarterly high.
Domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Jacobs welcomed the announcement. ‘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.’
The government also announced it was changing the law to protect breastfeeding mothers from being harassed. Taking non-consensual photographs or video recordings of breastfeeding mothers will be made a specific offence punishable by up to two years in prison.