Should Britain have a Statute of Limitations on sex crimes?
The text below is written anonymously on The Opinion Site . As it sums the situation up, it has been copied below in its entirety.
Britain is unique in Europe in that it has no Statute of Limitations for serious sexual crimes. This means that someone can be arrested, charged and convicted for a crime that they committed half a century ago, even though many witnesses may be dead, memories are faded and the only evidence is the word of the alleged victim – or more accurately, the accuser.
The limitation periods for other countries for this type of offence vary and they are often on a ‘sliding scale’ to take account of the age of the alleged victim or have exclusion or inclusion clauses built in.
The average limitation period across the EU is about 12 years from the date of the alleged offence with a maximum of 20 years if the alleged victim was under age at the time or if violence was supposedly involved.
The point is though that Britain has no limitation period at all and this is seen by many to be totally unjust. It is also true that one very rarely hears about ‘historic’ violent crimes.
Furthermore, the injustice of this situation is compounded by the fact that in such ‘historic’ cases of alleged rape or abuse, unless there is DNA, photographic or indisputable forensic evidence, there is very often nothing, other than the word of the alleged victim, on which to base a judgement of innocence or guilt.
Given that where alleged child victims are concerned, juries convict in 95% of all cases, there is little hope of mounting any kind of effective defence when the period of time since any alleged offence being committed is so long. This is precisely why so many countries have a Statute of Limitations.
Yet this subject is never discussed in Parliament and any attempt to bring some rational thought to the debate is closed down instantly. Any hint of reform in this are brings howls of pain and anguish from the NSPCC, Childline and all the other financially interested parties.
Yes, TheOpinionSite.org has made this point before but equally, nothing is ever done about the injustice of the situation or about the fact that many innocent men have been locked up for years.
Even David Cameron and his predecessors have admitted that up to 10% of those in jail for what would be very serious offences could very well be innocent. The excuse for this? They are quick to tell us that, “No system is perfect.”
Only this last week, local councils have been complaining that so called ‘victims’ of abuse from many years ago have started various legal actions for what supposedly happened to them in their past, often 20, 30 or even 40 years ago when they were in care.
Because there is no Statute of Limitations the police investigate as if the alleged offence was committed yesterday, the whole ‘child protection’ machine rolls into action and the defendant – if one dare use the term – can do nothing because the only evidence is ‘here-say’ and uncorroborated but, thanks to a ruling by naive Law Lords years ago, can not only be admitted into court but often provides the backbone of the prosecution case.
The accused then has to prove that he is innocent (rather than the prosecution having to prove that he is guilty) as indeed does any defendant nowadays charged with child abuse. The difference is that there very often is no evidence on either side – yet juries still almost always convict in historic cases as they are fearful of doing otherwise.
The sentence is often small as the sentence has to reflect the law in force at the time but the payout to the ‘victim’ is often in the tens of thousands of pounds. Meanwhile, the damage done to often innocent people and their families is catastrophic.
A proud policeman then stands on the steps of the court and tries to justify the huge expense and use of sarce resources resulting from the investigation by claiming that “No matter how long ago these offences took place, we have brought the offender to justice.”
There is of course no mention whatsoever of the often very substantial compensation paid to the ‘victim’ who then needs to take a luxury holiday to ‘recover’ from the stress of the ordeal.
TheOpinionSite.org along with many others think it is a little odd that the number of ‘historic’ sex cases brought before UK courts has doubled over the last 3 years – 3 years of financial recession and hardship for many.
Some years ago, the German government abolished payouts for sex abuse cases except where there was corroborated evidence. The result was a drop of over 80% in the number of complaints from would be ‘victims’.
The use of highly emotive and incredibly destructive accusations by money-grabbing individuals who find themselves a bit short is not only an affront to the rest of us but also undermines the cause of genuine victims of abuse. That alone is a reason for Parliament to discuss this politically uncomfortable issue yet successive governments refuse to do so and if you raise the matter with your MP, he or she is very likely to end the conversation there and then.
Accusations of child abuse have in recent years been transformed into the perfect ‘blunt weapon’ for those who have a grievance against someone. Everybody knows it, nobody denies it, yet no one wants to do anything about it, not even MPs who have been on the recieving end.
Liberal Democrat MP, Mike Hancock was recently investigated by the police for indecent assault as well as being accused of being a ‘paedophile’ in the recent election. Has he make a stand for those similarly falsely accused? Has he supported any review of IPP sentences? Has he raised the question of ‘historic’ accusations?
No, he has not.
All he has done instead is to ignore calls for a rethink on what is an inhuman policy for those who are falsely accused and he continues, as does every other MP, to support every motion brought before the House relating to sex offenders and child abuse, no matter how unjust or unreasonable such measures may be and seemingly without any regard to the destruction that historic accusations can bring to the falsely accused, their families and very often their children as well.
Without a Statute of Limitations, everyone – without exception – is fair game if someone has a grievance against them. The further back in time the allegation goes, the easier it is to get a conviction and the more chance there is of a nice, fat, juicy payout.
TheOpinionSite.org would suggest that without a Statute of Limitation we are all potential targets for this type of action. If someone has genuinely been abused, despite what the ‘experts’ tell us, it is unlikely that they would really wait 40 years to tell anyone, and to be frank, if they do wait that long, their motives for so belatedly bringing the accusation should be examined in the finest detail. So, watch out because any of us could be next.
True, you may be completely innocent but that will not save you from a legal system that allows such easy convictions for alleged offences that are so old, based on often non-existent evidence and are impossible to prove one way or the other, yet which have a big fat cheque waiting for the lucky winner.