EXPERTS at a rape crisis centre have dismissed a call by a celebrity lawyer to introduce a time limit on when prosecutions of historical sex abuse can be brought.
Acquittals in two high-profile cases involving Coronation Street actor Bill Roache and former Radio One DJ Dave Lee Travis has prompted searching questions about the prosecutions of such investigations.
Nick Freeman told The Times newspaper after Mr Travis was found not guilty last week there should be a Government review of the timescales during which a victim can report an historical sexual crime, capping them at three years – like personal injury claims in the civil court.
He said: “Times have changed when many of these alleged crimes are said to have taken place. What was acceptable then is not now and bringing these prosecutions is a highly complex issue.”
But the suggestion has been criticised by Jools James-Kempshall at the New Swindon Sanctuary, the town’s sexual assault referral centre based at Gablecross, who said sex crime victims can often take a long time to speal out and only very few claims are found to be falsely reported.
The centre has seen an explosion in reports of historic sex offences in the last two years with an increase of more than 40 per cent, which they have termed the ‘Savile effect’ after revelations about the late TV presenter Jimmy Savile were exposed in the media.
And just last week Richard Lewis Gilmore, 87, of East Drive, Blunsdon, was jailed for three years after admitting five counts of indecent assault and one of gross indecency on girl when she was aged seven, with the abuse dating back to the late 1970s through to the 1990s.
The woman only reported the crime to police last year.
Jools, a former police officer who now manages the centre, said: “It takes different people different amounts of time to come to terms with what’s happened to them and people that is something you often find with people dealing with trauma – that is what post-traumatic stress disorder is all about.
“It has to be tailored to each person. The other day I had a chap of 82 ring the centre to report he was raped when he was a child of 14 – he had been carrying it with him for his whole life.
“You cannot put a time limit on that trauma so how can you put a time limit on when somebody can be prosecuted for the crime? It might have happened 20 or 30 years ago but why should that mean someone should get away with it? That would send out the wrong message.”
Jools also added that only very few claims are found to be falsely reported.
“I can appreciate why people might ask ‘why now?’ in celebrity cases but in general we find that only two per cent of people falsely accuse. It can be a traumatic process and there is a lot involved in terms of interviews and there has to be a timeline of evidence.”
The SARC offers a 24-hour helpline on 0808 168 0024 or log onto www.newswindonsanctuary.co.uk.