Submitted by Dave Stanley (CA 60)
STATUTORY TIME LIMITS
To illustrate the requirement for a statutory time limit on certain sexual offences, I put forward some aspects of my own case.
In 1979 an allegation of sexual abuse was made against me whilst working at Cotsbrook Hall, a residential care home for emotionally and psychologically disturbed boys. This resulted in a police investigation and I was suspended from work. During the investigation, which lasted for many weeks, the vast majority of the boys and staff were interviewed by a Detective Inspector and a Detective Sergeant and apart from the complainant no other reports of abuse were made. I was arrested and interviewed under caution on two separate occasions at the local police station by the Detective Inspector and Detective Sergeant. The case was eventually dropped as there was no evidence to formulate a charge.
In 1996 I was arrested and eventually charged with Indecent Assault and Buggery. Many of the complainants were the same boys who had previously been interviewed in 1979 and had said nothing had happened, now they were falling over each other to make complaints. These boys would also have been interviewed as part of the North Wales Children's Homes investigation in 1993 and it would appear that they had no complaints at that time. It is also possible that they were interviewed for the North Wales Tribunal but again nothing appears to have come from that. They have had up to three opportunities to make a complaint but did not feel able to until the police "trawled" them in 1996-97.
If a statutory time limit had been in place, as in many other countries in the Western world, it would not have resulted in a hugely expensive trial. These boys have had nearly 20 years to make a complaint. It is an affront to common sense to consider that all of them would have kept quiet for so long if these alleged heinous act had indeed traumatised them to the extent that was made out in court.
To mount a defence under delayed circumstances is difficult enough, but when there are no contemporary records, including the log books from Cotsbrook Hall that contained daily entries of all movements and problems, mounting a defence is difficult.
There would have been police and legal documentation, including statements from staff and boys from the 1979 investigation. These are no longer available and makes the ability to mount a defence even more difficult.
A statutory time limit would also dispense with many false claims for compensation based on "impossible to prove" and "impossible to defend" cases.