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Time limit extended to 2 years to prosecute domestic abuse common assault and battery offences

Situations that often cause problems for officers within the police is domestic abuse between officers and staff, we have examples where investigating officers can be manipulated and forces may take the easy option of trying to get rid of one of the parties and conduct little investigation.

Alernatively, they may do nothing and the perception is they are protecting and offendor.

A primary perpetrator of abuse may claim to have been assaulted by the other party and have injuries apparently supporting their account. They may in fact have been caused in self-defence by the primary victim. A manipulative perpetrator may be trying to draw an officer into colluding with their coercive control of the victim.

Police officers should avoid playing into the primary perpetrator’s hands and take account of all available evidence when making a decision to arrest.

Identifying the primary perpetrator can mean looking beyond the current incident to the wider context, for example is this a case where a long-term victim’s self-restraint has snapped as a result of protracted abuse?

Remembering that sometimes it is the perpetrator who shouts loudest and being wary of malicious reports being made as a coercive control tactic

The wrong party may have been prosecuted and aquitted at the Magistrates Court however; the officer will still face a disciplinary hearing and may be dismissed.

In one particular case we became involved at a late stage, we obtained statements showing that the complainant had lied about the assault which; we forwarded to the Professional Standards Department (PSD) and unfortunately this made no difference to the outcome where the officer was dismissed and the other party was not investigated.

If the police are not investigating your case fairly, you need to start a criminal defence investigation as soon as possible, it maybe that your workplace representative has advised you to iust wait to see what the Crown Prosecution service (CPS) will decide.

We believe in being poactive in these circumstances because it is much easier to prevent a wrongful prosecution than to try and overturn a conviction and miscarriage of justice.

The law regarding domestic abuse has been amended which now means that victims can now make allegations of common assault or battery that may have taken place up to 2 years earlier from what had been a a 6 month statutory time limit.

We have dealt with a domestic abuse unit recently where an OIC was not aware of the amendment and as a result a suspect was NFAd.

Whilst the amendment is welcome and helpful for genuine victims, it can also be misused.

Another issue that crops up is where officers or police staff have being unlawfully arrested for common assault when the "necessity" element was not made out and custody sergeants have accepted persons into custody rather than refusing to authorise detention.

In one case, where this was raised, a sergeant gave a reason for the arrest being necessary because they wanted to seize a mobile phone which is not a reason to arrest someone.

Regardless of the outcome, arrest itself can have a significant, negative impact on those subjected to it. As well as potentially affecting your reputation and your job it can be a traumatic experience with consequences for officers mental and physical health.

Is there a necessity to arrest?

Where an offence has been committed in a domestic abuse case, arrest will normally be ‘necessary’ to protect a child or vulnerable person, prevent the suspect causing injury or criminal damage and/or allow for the prompt and effective investigation of the offence.

According to PACE, even in these cases police must consider other practical alternatives to arrest. Only in the absence of such alternatives is arrest justifiable.

We would encourage custody officers to ask questions before authorising detention and also listen to the arrested person, sometimes they have useful information which may help in deciding whether to authorise detention or not.

For officers who believe they may have been unlawfully arrested, start preparing for your criminal defence investigation, if you have a solicitor ask them to note any complaint on the custody record including a request that the custody video is secured and preserved.

If not requested at at the time ensure a GDPR subject access request (SAR) is submitted within 30 days otherwise you may not be able to get a copy. of the video.

If you are under investigation, you will not be able to get a copy however; by making the request the video should be saved and you will get a copy when you are no longer under investigation or via disclosure if charged.

When a detainee leaves police detention or is taken before a court they, their legal representative or appropriate adult shall be given, on request, a copy of the custody record as soon as practicable. This entitlement lasts for 12 months after release.

Make sure you get a copy of the custody record before you leave the police station as you will have difficulty in obtaining a copy once you have left,

Usually a duty solicitor is only given the front page of a cutody record however; there has been revised and updated statutaory guidance for PACE.

A detainee’s solicitor and appropriate adult must be permitted to inspect the whole of the detainee’s custody record as soon as practicable after their arrival at the station and at any other time on request, whilst the person is detained.

Make sure your police station representative or solicitor asks to inspect the whole of the custody record, there may be information contained within the document to help you.

Hopefully some of this may be useful, plesae contact us if you need any help, advice or guidance concerning domestic abuse.

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