Saturday, 27 September 2014

Timescales and Sexual Offences, an Update

The petition that I started here has now been going for about a month and a half, and now has nearly 400 signatures.
Hopefully all who have read my blog have signed it - if not WHY? - sign it now, it only takes a minute!
I have managed to find out the history of this disclosure timescale, and include this below.
A week or so ago, I had a reply from Mr Chown, head of Criminal Procedure at the Ministry of Justice, outlining where this 12 month limit originated. I will reproduce part of his e-mail below and elaborate a bit on this after:
"The time limit was of long standing, dating back to 1885; as Lord Bingham of Cornhill explained in the House of Lords case of R v J, it was originally shorter:
“Section 5 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 provided that no prosecution for an offence under subsection (1) (sexual intercourse with a girl aged between 13 and 16) should be commenced more than three months after the commission of the offence. Section 27 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904 increased the time limit to six months. Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1922 increased the period to nine months. Section 1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1928 made a further increase to 12 months. That provision was consolidated in the 1956 Act.”
The time limit was finally abolished when the 1956 Act was replaced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, but only prospectively, with effect from the date when that Act was brought into force in 2004.  In so legislating, Parliament followed the usual principle of non-retroactivity; Lord Steyn’s speech in R v J simply observed without further comment that “The change in the law is, of course, not of retrospective effect”.  Although retrospective removal of the time limit would not amount to substantive retroactivity in the sense of criminalising conduct that was not previously unlawful, it is clear that the bar to retroactive legislation also applies to fundamental procedural pre-conditions for the bringing of charges against an individual"
So, this goes back over 100 years to 1885!!
The original Law from 1885 itself an be read here and here (section 5) , and the bit that applies to this is "Provided also, that no prosecution shall de commenced for an offence under sub section one of this section more than 3 months after the commission of this offence".
I won't make this post too long, however, I will include a link that does explain further the reasons behind the original 3 month limit, and the reasons for raising it to 12 months. This link can be read here (it is rather long though) and includes the following 2 items:
"it was thought then that a girl who fell pregnant, and thus was unquestionably the victim of an offence, was so likely to name the wrong man that the accused needed the exceptional protection of a very short time limit, one which elapsed before her pregnancy had become obvious or even known" (this for the reasons of having the 3 month original timescale),
"it cannot long have been the supposed need to identify a perpetrator before a pregnancy became apparent, because the time limit was soon raised, first to six months by the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904, then to nine months by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1922, and finally to 12 months by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1928. It was precisely because a pregnancy or childbirth might reveal the offence that the limit was raised. The reasons given for having any limit at all - loss of witnesses and the difficulties of proof - might equally apply to many other offences. But complainants in sexual offences were then still regarded with much more suspicion than other complainants, and so abolition may have been thought too radical to contemplate. However, it is hard to discern any coherent rationale after 1922, because the 1922 Act also provided that consent would no longer be a defence to an indecent assault upon a child or young person under the age of 16. Thus most forms of sexual activity with a girl under 16 became a criminal offence whether or not she consented, but no time limit was prescribed." for the raising of this limit.
What can be done to remove the 12 months for victims of this crime now disclosing abuse?
I will cover this soon in another posting.
Until then, please sign if you haven't yet done so, and please keep sharing and encouraging others to do so - the link is HERE this needs to be removed for the sake of "Sarah", "Sylvie" and "Jane", and all other victims of this crime who have been, and will be denied justice. 

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