Change law to give women 18 months to report domestic abuse, say survivors

Yvette Cooper slams domestic violence charge time limit

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Currently they have six months to register a case of common assault but campaigners want that extended to 18 months in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Refuge, Women’s Aid and the Centre For Women’s Justice back the move as the current limit means common assault cases can run out of time. The charities say survivors face many barriers to bringing cases, such as trauma and fear, with the danger that some offenders escape justice.

A Bill amendment has been ­put forward by Labour MP and ­former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.

Erica Osakwe, who was unable to bring her case after three years of abuse from her ex because it “timed out”, said a change in the law is vital.

She has collected 64,000 names on a petition calling for the move.

Ms Osakwe said: “My message to [Home Secretary] Priti Patel is ­simple: There is a real opportunity today to make a real difference.

“Women like me – who bravely come forward and want to address the abuse they experienced – are being timed out of accessing the justice they need.

“There are so many reasons we won’t come forward straightaway.

“The law needs to reflect our reality – right now it doesn’t. I urge all MPs to support the amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper and help women like me have the access to justice we need.

“I started this campaign because I don’t want any other women to go through the pain that I did as my case timed out. For the law to change…it would finally feel like our voices are being heard.

“I went through physical and ­emotional abuse. When I went to the police, I had no idea there were such time limits.

“They left me with no support, there was nothing. It was devastating times and I was all over the place. I wanted to do something about this and change the law.” The Daily Express has led the End This Injustice crusade to highlight the plight of survivors in the pandemic, as they may be less able to obtain help.

It has won a government vow to overhaul the family court system through the Domestic Abuse Bill. Our campaign also wants legislation to better protect abuse survivors.

Refuge chief executive Ruth Davison said the charity was “proud to have joined with Erica, who has so bravely turned her horrific experiences into a positive campaign”.

She added: “Alongside Women’s Aid and the Centre For Women’s Justice, we are collectively asking MPs to support the amendment put forward by Yvette Cooper MP and ensure other women are not faced with the same legal barriers.”

Ms Davison also called for action “which will offer greater access to justice for women who experience domestic abuse and ensure they are no longer ‘timed out’ by a system”.

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