Huge rise in domestic abuse cases being dropped

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Campaigners against male violence have called for amendments to the policing bill  (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
Campaigners against male violence have called for amendments to the policing bill (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Cases of domestic abuse are being dropped at rapidly increasing rate, official figures show.

The number of common assault offences, including domestic abuse, being dropped because they fail to meet a deadline for prosecution has more than doubled in the last four years.

Currently, the time limit to charge someone for common assault is six months from when the alleged incident occurred.

But campaigners say domestic abuse victims need to be given more time to report attacks due to the complexity of such cases and reluctance to press charges.

In figures obtained by the BBC from 30 police forces across England and Wales, domestic abuse allegations are rising yet charges are falling.

Domestic abuse common assaults have risen from roughly 100,000 in 2016/17 to more than 160,000 in 2020/21.

Cases being dropped due to the six-month time limit has risen by 159 per cent between 2016 and this year so far, from 1,451 in 2016/17 to to 3,763 in 2020/21.

As well as this, more than 98.4 per cent of rape allegations in England and Wales also do not end in a conviction.

Labour MP and chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, said falling charges in cases are just another example of the criminal justice system failing to understand violence against women and girls.

“This is a shocking fact that thousands of cases a year - and getting worse - are just being timed out,” she told BBC News.

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

Ms Cooper and campaigners have called for an amendment to the policing bill, to extend the six-month time limit for reporting domestic violence to two years.

A government spokesperson 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.”

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