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Should there be a ‘Statute of Limitations’ for criminal offences?

How can a person defend their liberty years after an event based on false memories, asks Adrian Mason

21 August 2015

Recent headlines accusing former politicians of historical sex abuse has once again reignited the long-running debate on whether the UK should have a 'Statute of Limitations' for certain criminal offences.

With the exception of summary offences, there are no statutory limits on the prosecution of crimes in the UK. Instead, the legal maxim, 'nullum tempus occurrit regi' (time does not run against the Crown) applies and charges can be brought after any period. Other jurisdictions have varying rules on criminal limitation periods.

In Europe, under the civil law system, almost all prosecutions must be commenced within a certain period, known as 'prescription'.

It is a paradox that article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states that a trial takes place within a reasonable time 'rendering justice without delays which might jeop...

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