Huge rise in domestic violence cases being dropped by police

·2-min read
Police have six months to bring charges in common assault cases (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Police have six months to bring charges in common assault cases (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

Domestic violence complainants are having their cases dropped at a rapidly increasing rate.

Police have six months to bring charges in common assault cases from when the alleged incident took place.

Campaigners have called for an extension to two years in instances of domestic abuse because of the often complex nature of cases.

Figures obtained by the BBC show 3,763 cases were dropped in the past year because the six-month time limit had passed. This compared with 1,451 four years earlier.

In the last five years, 12,982 ended because of the six-month limit being passed.

Data from 30 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales reveals common assaults flagged as domestic increased by 71 per cent from 99,134 to 170,013 between 2017 and 2021.

However, those resulting in charges fell by 23 per cent.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said it was another “shocking” example of the criminal justice system failing to understand violence against women and girls.

She said: “There are so many reasons why victims and survivors of domestic abuse might not be able to report an assault straight away.

Yvette Cooper (PA Wire)
Yvette Cooper (PA Wire)

“But then to be told that the perpetrator is just going to be let off because they’ve run out of time is completely wrong. That is why the law needs to change.”

Erica Osakwe, who founded Victims Too, saw the time limit expire on her report of abuse because of alleged police failures.

She told the BBC: “There was a pit in my stomach that didn’t leave me for weeks or months. I felt like they took me for a joke.

“It didn’t seem like they’ve valued my story.”

A government spokesman said: “All allegations should be investigated and pursued rigorously through the courts where possible, and there is no time limit on reporting crimes such as bodily harm or those that add up to coercive behaviour.

“We have invested millions into vital services to support victims throughout the pandemic, and continue to urge anyone at risk of harm to come forward and get the help they need.

“Perpetrators of domestic abuse do untold damage and we sympathise with any victim whose life has been affected by such acts.”

Met Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, the national lead for domestic abuse, added: “We know there are many reasons why victims may not immediately report offences, particularly in cases of domestic abuse where victims can face coercion and other barriers to coming forward.

“We are supporting the Home Office in their analysis of this issue and we will continue to work with them and the Crown Prosecution Service to understand the scale and ensure that every victim is able to achieve the justice they deserve.”

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