Huge rise in domestic abuse cases being dropped by police

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Huge rise in domestic abuse cases being dropped by police: Number of probes abandoned after passing six-month charge limit rises to 3,763 – more than double four years earlier

  • In the last year, 3,673 cases were dropped after passing six-month charge limit  
  • Six months is the period of time police have to charge domestic violence cases
  • Between 2016-17 and 2020-21  cases flagged as domestic abuse increased 71%  


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There has been a huge increase in the number of domestic abuse cases being dropped by police, new data has revealed. 

In the last year, 3,673 cases were dropped after passing the six-month charge limit, compared to 1,451 dropped four years earlier.

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Under law, six months is the period of time police have to make a charge in common assault cases, including domestic violence.

The rule, which is criticised by campaigners, meant that 12,982 domestic abuse cases have been dropped over the past five years. 

In the last year, 3,673 cases of domestic abuse were dropped after passing the six-month charge limit, compared to 1,451 dropped four years earlier (stock photo)

In the last year, 3,673 cases of domestic abuse were dropped after passing the six-month charge limit, compared to 1,451 dropped four years earlier (stock photo)

The data, obtained by the BBC, also revealed that between 2016-17 and 2020-21 the number of common assaults flagged as domestic abuse increased by 71% from 99,134 to 170,013. 

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Despite the rise in domestic abuse cases, there has been a 159% increase in charges not being brought because of the time limit. 

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

She said: ‘This is a shocking fact that thousands of cases a year – and getting worse – are just being timed out.

‘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.’

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The six-month time limit is intended to ensure that the criminal justice system keeps moving but it has been criticised by campaigners who are  calling for it to be extended to two years in instances of domestic violence. 

The data was not broken down by gender, and covers both men and women. 

Despite the rise in domestic abuse cases, there has been a 159% increase in charges not being brought because of the time limit (stock photo)

Despite the rise in domestic abuse cases, there has been a 159% increase in charges not being brought because of the time limit (stock photo) 

A person is guilty of common assault if they inflict violence on another person or make that person think they are about to be attacked. Threatening words or a raised fist are also included.   

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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.’ 

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