New law Means Domestic Abuse Survivors Could get More Time to Report Domestic Abuse

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Nathalie Swanwick

Abuse Claims Solicitor

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Current Time Limits for Domestic Abuse Prosecutions

In October 2021, the BBC revealed that 13,000 domestic violence cases in England and Wales had been dropped by the police in the last five years, as victims had not reported the crimes within the six-month time limit.

Because of this, on the 4th January 2022, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was amended to  a two-year time frame, giving victims of domestic abuse a chance at reporting the crimes. The victims were given longer to report, and the authorities were advised that they have to carry out an investigation within six months of the report in order to prosecute.

The Government Press Release read:

Under the changes, victims of domestic abuse will be allowed more time to report incidents of common assault or battery against them. Currently, prosecutions must commence within six months of the offence.

Instead, 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. Domestic abuse is often reported late relative to other crimes; so, this will ensure victims have enough time to seek justice and that perpetrators answer for their actions.”

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Why this was needed

Sadly, in the UK, every 30 seconds the police receive a domestic abuse related call. However, the Refuge charity, it is estimated that less than 24% of domestic abuse is reported to the police.  

It was also reported that domestic abuse victims don’t report the crimes straight away, as they feel fearful and scared of what will happen after the incident. Often it is because the victim is in a relationship with the perpetrator, which is what makes it harder to realise, or come forward. Statistics report that it can take a victim seven attempts to leave their partner, as leaving an abusive partner is a difficult territory that comes with many complications.

Because of the six-month time limit on charging for assault and domestic violence, by the time a domestic violence victim came forward, it was often too late. When individuals would speak to the police, they were told that the charging time limit had passed, and there was nothing more to do.

The only instance that an expired domestic abuse case may have been picked up is for other offences relating to the case; like a repeated, or serious violent crime. This could be actual bodily harm (ABH), where no time limits apply, or coercive control which is also illegal.

Overall, the lengthened time frame for domestic abuse gives victims a longer chance to report to the police and find safety, but also retains a constant time limit to safeguard against the case being dragged out.

Time Limits for Domestic Abuse Prosecutions

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill got to its final stages in January 2022.

The new law meant that the six months will run from the date the incident is reported to the police, and there will be an overall time limit of two years from the offence, to bring a prosecution.

The Criminal Injuries Scheme and how the new Rules Will Impact Domestic Abuse Claims

The Criminal Injuries Scheme is a government-funded scheme set up to compensate victims of violent crime, including physical, sexual and emotional/psychological abuse to help them rebuild their lives.

If you want to make a claim, the abuse you’ve suffered must be reported to the police, and an application must be made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) within 2 years of the incident.

However, if the CICA application isn’t made within that two-year time period, if it can be proved that there were exceptional circumstances that prevented the abuse survivor from applying earlier, and can be determined without further extensive enquiries it can sometimes be extended.

CICA applications under the Criminal Injuries Scheme can sometimes be rejected if the evidence presented does not show, on balance, that the domestic violence occurred. For instance, if there were no obvious injuries from the abuse. Compensation can be withheld under the Criminal Injuries Scheme if the incident wasn’t reported to the police as soon as reasonably practicable. If there’s a delay in reporting domestic abuse to the police, this can often be grounds for the CICA to withhold compensation.

It is possible to challenge this as the CICA do recognise that domestic abuse is often reported late, compared to other crimes.

What Simpson Millar Thought About the Changes to the Time Limits for Domestic Abuse Prosecutions

Extending the time limit to give abuse survivors two years from the offence to bring a prosecution against their abuser means that there will be more successful prosecutions.

A conviction will prove that the abuse occurred, and this will mean that the applications that have been made outside of the 2-year time limit will have more chance of being successful without needing further extensive enquiries.

The Criminal Courts do require a higher standard of proof when bringing cases to Trial, and it must be proved beyond any reasonable doubt. In a CICA claim, there does not have to be a criminal conviction, but we do have to show on balance that the abuse happened.

The proposed changes show that the justice system recognises how difficult it is for victims to report their abuse as they often live in fear of repercussions and are, therefore, not always able to report the abuse immediately.

This law should have a positive impact on criminal injury claims as more criminal prosecutions will succeed once the time limit is extended.

The Government has also announced that £125 million will be given to councils across England to provide vital support services for domestic abuse victims during 2022/23, taking the total amount awarded to £330 million. The funding will go to healthcare providers, social workers, benefit interpreters, immigration advice centres and other specialist services.

We have a team of specialist Domestic Abuse Solicitors, who would be happy to talk through your situation and tell you if you’re eligible to make a claim under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and give you an idea about how much compensation you’re likely to receive.

When you're ready to talk, we're ready to listen

When you’ve suffered any kind of sexual or physical abuse, it can take a long time before you feel ready to talk about it. Reporting abuse can take a lot of courage, so when you're ready to talk, we're ready to listen.

Our specialist team of Abuse Claims Solicitors are compassionate, understanding, and easy to talk to. We’ll handle your case with the sensitivity it deserves, offering you help and support throughout the whole process. We can provide you with details of support organisations and survivors groups who are specialists in providing support to abuse survivors.

We have helped many survivors for more than 20 years bring a successful claim even if the abuse happened many years ago, allowing them to get a sense of closure and the justice they deserve.

Contact us for free confidential advice. Legal Aid may be available, depending on your financial situation or we could deal with your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis. Just ask us for details. 


BBC News. (2021, October 8). Domestic Abuse Bill: New Law to Target Serial Offenders.

UK Parliament. (n.d.). Domestic Abuse Bill.

GOV.UK. (2021, October 8). Domestic Abuse Victims in England and Wales to Be Given More Time to Report Assaults.

Refuge. (n.d.). The Facts About Domestic Abuse.

Crown Prosecution Service. (n.d.). Offences Against the Person (Incorporating Charging Standard).

Cosmopolitan. (2021, December 28). How Long Do You Have to Report Domestic Abuse?

GOV.UK. (2021, October 8). Domestic Abuse Victims in England and Wales to Be Given More Time to Report Assaults.

GOV.UK. (n.d.). Criminal Injuries Compensation: A Guide.

GOV.UK. (2021, July 17). £125 Million Allocated to Councils to Support Domestic Abuse Victims and Their Children.

Nathalie Swanwick

Abuse Claims Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Abuse Claims

Nathalie began her legal career in 2009 after completing her law degree at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2008. She has specialised in abuse claims since 2010, and went on to qualify as a Solicitor in 2013.

Following her qualification Nathalie specialised in a range of personal injury claims including abuse claims and criminal injury claims. She has acted for clients who have suffered life-changing injuries such as brain injuries.

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