Regulation & Government

New bill to extend domestic abuse prosecution window 

New measures to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will also mean that taking non-consensual photographs or video recordings of breastfeeding mothers will be punishable by up to two years in prison

Domestic abuse victims in England and Wales are set to be given more time to report assaults, following the addition of new measures to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The new measures will see victims of domestic abuse be allowed more time to report incidents of common assault or battery against them as currently, prosecutions must commence within six months of the offence.

Going forward, however, this requirement will be moved to six months from the date the incident is formally reported to the police, with an overall time limit of two years from the offence to bring a prosecution. 

It comes as the Ministry of Justice said that domestic abuse is often reported late relative to other crimes, adding that the new measures will “ensure victims have enough time to seek justice and that perpetrators answer for their actions”.

In addition to this, taking non-consensual photographs or video recordings of breastfeeding mothers will also be made a specific offence punishable by up to two years in prison. 

It covers situations where the motive is to “obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm”. Similar legislation introduced by the Government in 2019 that criminalised “upskirting” has led to more than 30 prosecutions since it became law.

Ministers said they are changing the law to protect mums from being harassed “no matter where they choose to breastfeed”.

Deputy prime minister, lord chancellor and secretary of state for Justice, Dominic Raab said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to protect women, make them feel safer, and give them greater confidence in the justice system.

“We’re giving the victims of domestic abuse longer to report the offence to the police – so abusers don’t evade justice. And we will introduce a new offence to stop people filming or taking photos of mothers breast feeding without their consent – because no new mum should be harassed in this way.”

Domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Jacobs added: “I strongly welcome the additions made to the PCSC Bill today, which allow victims of domestic abuse more time to report to the police.

“It is important that all domestic abuse victims have the time and opportunity to report to the police. This is especially important following Covid restrictions, when many victims faced additional challenges to seeking help and reporting domestic abuse. I want to see increased prosecutions for domestic abuse, and hope to see that as these measures remove another barrier to bringing perpetrators to justice.”

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