Shireen’s law: Victory in sight for campaign to remove time limit on domestic violence prosecutions
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
An historic change in the law to abolish a time limit on prosecuting cases of domestic violence is set to be considered by the government as a result of a campaign by a Hampstead mother.
Domestic abuse victim Shireen Jamil spoke of her elation this week after hearing the new legislation she has lobbied for is on the cusp of being realised.
The 58-year-old, who has debilitating injuries as a result of historic abuse, has fought a determined campaign to abolish a six-month time limit on prosecutions in the UK – backed by the Ham&High.
A little-known legal loophole has allowed abusers to escape justice because domestic violence prosecutions are most commonly mounted under the law of common assault, which has a six-month statute of limitation.
Mrs Jamil, who lives in sheltered accommodation in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, said: “People will not stop being murdered in this country until this law is abolished because once a person thinks, ‘I’m home free in six months’, they will reoffend.”
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She has lobbied for a statutory change so there is no time limit on victims seeking justice – as is the case in rape prosecutions.
Mrs Jamil started a petition, which has gained more than 400 signatures in the last two weeks since she added shocking images of her own battered face as a young woman.
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“Women began to write to me saying how touched they were and how deeply they related to it, being victims themselves of domestic violence,” she said.
“I began to realise that most organisations didn’t even realise there was a six month time limit on reporting and certainly most women didn’t know.”
Her petition came to the attention of criminal justice expert Harry Fletcher, who is coordinating a draft bill that proposes criminalising domestic abuse under a new law of coercive control.
On Monday, an 11th-hour amendment was made to the draft legislation to say “there shall be no time limit in respect of investigating a complaint of coercive control or domestic abuse” as a direct result of Mrs Jamil’s story.
Mr Fletcher said: “Police are called out time and time again, they go out and look at what’s happened that morning but don’t take into account years and years of abuse.
“With coercive control they’ll be forced to take that into account and that will make the criminal charge massively more serious.
“Criminalising coercive control is the statutory way forward, and it must be without a time limit – which is what Shireen has been calling for. “This is a direct result of Shireen’s story.”
The draft bill, introduced by Welsh MP Elfyn Llwyd, will be tabled as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill and has cross-party support. It could become law before the general election.
Mrs Jamil, who praised her son, Hampstead author Adnandus Dyzantae, as a “pillar of support”, has been invited to parliament to meet with those working on the legislation.
“It is the government’s duty to abolish this time limit if they wish to save lives,” she said. “It’s as simple as that.
“Once a person knows that the victim can come forward in a year, five years, or 20 years, and they will have to atone for the damage they did, the killing will stop, the disabilities will stop, the hitting will be reduced.”