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Historical crimes

People will sometimes come forward years after an event to report a matter to police, particularly sex offences. The police will investigate these matters even if there is no physical or forensic evidence available.

In some cases, prosecutions have been successfully made based on witness accounts or a confession by the alleged offender.

It can be more difficult when the victim is uncertain as to when the offence occurred. The legislation in force at the time of the offence is applied when considering charges against a person. With sex offences, the legislation was amended several times between the early 70s through to the mid 90s.

For other crimes such as stealing, sex assault or murder, there is no statute of limitation and the offender can always be charged if sufficient evidence exists.

In some cases, a prosecution has to start within three or six months of an offence having been committed. If that time limit has expired, then there is no prospect of being able to prosecute the offender.

If you wish to report a historical crime, you will need details of events that occurred, ie times, dates and places, and any information that may support your account. You may be able to do this through your own personal records including school reports, medical records, significant family events such as birthdays or anniversaries, or by supplying details of witnesses that the police can interview

Making a report

To make a report, contact your local police who will assess the information and in most cases, the matter will be referred to a specialist area for inquiry.

The likelihood of conviction should not be a determining factor in reporting a historical crime. An arrest does not have to occur for you to be eligible for compensation if you fit the criteria, but you also need to be aware of time limits on claims.

It may well be the final act of setting yourself free from the impact of the offence to take control and report the offence.

Last updated: 18-Feb-2013

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