Camden domestic violence victims back calls to scrap legal time limit that robbed them of justice

PUBLISHED: 10:00 21 March 2014

This woman, who was beaten by her husband, has urged the government to scrap rules that stop prosecutors pursing some allegations of historic domestic abuse. Picture: Nigel Sutton

This woman, who was beaten by her husband, has urged the government to scrap rules that stop prosecutors pursing some allegations of historic domestic abuse. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email

A campaign to persuade the government to scrap rules that stop many historic cases of domestic violence going to court has won the support of victims who were denied justice.

Two more women have come forward to back calls for a change in the law this week, while domestic violence charity Women Against Rape also voiced its support.

They have joined a brave abuse victim from Hampstead, who spoke out in the Ham&High two weeks ago, to call for the removal of a legal requirement for assault allegations to be put before the courts within six months of an attack taking place.

She suffered more than 10 years of harrowing abuse in the 1980s and 1990s but took 20 years to report the crimes, by which time prosecutors said it was too late to charge her ex-husband.

The 58-year-old, who cannot be named because her abuser was never charged with any crime, said this week: “David Cameron must sit up and take notice.

“It takes a woman more than six months to even get her head around the fact that she has been struck by someone who is supposed to look after her and care for her.”

One of the women who has come forward to back the campaign was living in Hampstead in 2010 when her husband turned violent.

But her case fell outside the six month time limit because police took too long to pull the evidence together.

The 51-year-old start-up adviser said: “I don’t understand the time limit. Is it to do with resources?

“He tried to strangle me three times. I felt like my life was in danger and I had to go into hiding.

“A victim should have more rights.”

A third victim, 41, who works in Kentish Town, suffered assaults and sexual violence at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.

She did not report the beatings – when she was kicked, pinned down and had food smeared in her face – until she was raped a year later.

Nothing ever went to court because there was not enough evidence for a rape charge – she says police botched the investigation – while the assault allegations were outside the time limit.

She said: “When it’s someone you love and trust and you have an emotional bond with, it’s so much harder to go to the police straight away. They’re giving men a green light to go on and on.”

Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape, a campaigning organisation based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, said: “If you’re living with the person, you’re not necessarily going to go police at the time.

“The six month limit is a severe restriction and it’s not a realistic limit to put on women in that situation.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice failed to comment on the six month time limit.

She said: “This government is determined to protect victims and ensure perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse are brought to justice. That’s why we have transformed the way we deal with domestic violence victims with a revamped Victims’ Code to ensure a high level of support, £40million of ring-fenced funding for local support services and national helplines, and mandatory life sentences for offenders who commit a second serious sexual or violent offence.”

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