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Change the law to get more time to report domestic abuse

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Home Secretary Priti Patel has agreed to change the law to give victims of domestic abuse more time to report a crime, the BBC has been told, according to theĀ bbc.

There is currently a six-month time limit for a charge to be brought against someone for common assault.

But Ms Patel has agreed to extend the timeframe to up to two years.

It comes after the BBC revealed 13,000 cases in England and Wales had been dropped in five years because the six month limit had been breached.

The change is expected to come as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.

Campaigners have said the move would be very welcome, but they are waiting to see an official announcement.

Common assault cases include things like a push, threatening words or being spat at and are normally dealt with at magistrates court.

The clock starts from the date of the incident, and within the next six months, a victim needs to have come forward and the police have to have carried out their work to secure a charge against the alleged perpetrator, or the case will be dropped.

Victims of domestic common assault are sometimes reluctant to report incidents and the cases can be complex – which is why campaigners say the police should be given more time before having to bring charges.

The argument for the time limit was to keep the criminal justice system moving, especially when there is now such a backlog of cases to be heard following Covid.

But Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said the number of incidents being “timed out” because of the six month factor was “shocking”.

The BBC has been told this time limit will now be extended to two years, and there will be a renewed push to ensure police and prosecutors are alive to incidents of coercive control, which are often linked with incidents of domestic abuse.

Ms Cooper said the change would be “excellent news”, adding: “Making this simple and practical change would give domestic abuse victims more time to report assault and means stronger action to tackle violence against women and girls – something that is badly needed right now.”

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